Cymothoa Exigua: Creature In Woman’s Can Of Tuna Is Tongue-Eating Parasite

The Cymothoa Exigua. That is the actual name of the creature that a woman recently found in her can of tuna as it was staring back at her. While many around the Internet have been trying to figure out what it was, the mystery appears to have now been solved. The creature was identified as tongue-eating parasite.

Zoe Butler has no idea what was sitting in her can of Princes tuna fish, but she knew it shouldn’t have been in there. She had no idea that it was a tongue-eating louse that enters through the gills of fish and attaches itself to the tongue of a host fish, per the Telegraph.

Stuart Hine of the Natural History Museum in London said that research was done, and a team of experts realized what it was.

“From what I can see, I would support the head of a tongue-eating louse. Cymothoa exigua, or similar. I think these are the associates of smaller fish than tuna and fish that tuna eat. We could undoubtedly say more if presented with the specimen.”

Butler had purchased the can of tuna from a store in a suburb north of Nottingham. She just thought it was a normal can of tuna and did not expect the Cymothoa Exigua.

” ‘I opened the top of the lid and saw a purply thing, a gut sack or intestine – then I turned it round and pushed it with a fork and saw it looking back at me,’ she told the Nottingham Post.”

“It’s got like a spiny tail along the bottom – it’s quite grim.”

“I dropped the fork, jumped back, screamed a bit and shouted for my Nan to come and have a look.”

Twisted Sifter reported that the parasitic crustacean only grows to be about three of four centimeters in length. After attaching itself to the tongue of a fish, the Cymothoa Exigua extracts blood through the claws on its front three pairs of legs.

The parasite continues to grow and grow as less blood reaches the tongue of the fish and it atrophies. That is when the parasite replaces the fish’s tongue by actually attaching itself to the muscles of the tongue stub.

cymothoa exigua fish

At this point, the fish will use the creature as its tongue like a normal tongue and no further damage is done to the host. Acting as its tongue, the parasite will feed on the blood or mucus of the fish.

Many have speculated what the creature could have been, with some thinking it was a small version of a blowfish, a copepod, a tadpole, or even the head of a soft-shelled turtle. Some thoughts online were that it was an alien.

A spokesperson for Princes Tuna wanted to look into the matter further.

“We were contacted by Mrs Butler and immediately responded to apologise. We are arranging for her to send us the product so that we can look into this matter fully.”

The Cymothoa Exigua may have been on the tongue of one of the tunas that ended up being processed and put in a can for purchase by a consumer. It just so happens that the tongue-eating parasite landed eyes up and freaked out the world.

[Image via Newstream/Wikipedia]