Mystery Solved: Creature Found In Mom’s Can of Tuna Is A Tongue-Eating Parasite (Cymothoa Exigua)

While making dinner for her kids last Monday, Zoe Butler made a grim discovery after she opened a can of tuna. Staring back at her was a pair of beady black eyes that belonged to an unidentified creature. This creature was later determined to be a cymothoa exigua -- a tongue-eating parasite.

Shocked and horrified, the 28-year-old British mother of two sent a photo of the gross find to tuna manufacturer Princes, who later apologized and launched an investigation into the matter.

After a few days, Princes' results were in, and they concluded that the creature was a Megalopa, which is a small immature crab. They also stated that the creature posed no food safety risk.

However, the Telegraph enlisted experts from the Natural History Museum in London to try to solve the mystery, and they came up with a very different answer.

Museum scientist Stuart Hine told the Telegraph that the head probably belonged to a Cymothoa exigua, or tongue-eating louse, a parasite that enters through the gills of a fish and attaches itself to the fish's tongue. Hine said the parasite may have been attached to a smaller fish that was later eaten by the tuna.

Cymothoa Exigua
Small fish with cymothoa exigua

"From what I can see I would support the head of a tongue-eating louse, Cymothoa exigua, or similar," Hine stated

Cymothoa exigua - tongue-eating parasite
Cymothoa exigua - tongue-eating parasite in a fish's mouth

When the story of the strange and spine-chilling creature found in the can of tuna hit the internet last week, it became a social media sensation, and the mystery was dubbed #tunagate.

But is #tunagate over?

Though Hines said the head could belong to a cymothoa exigua, he also added that they would need to have a sample of the creature to inspect for themselves.

"I think these are associates of smaller fish than Tuna and fish that tuna eat," Hine added. "We could undoubtedly say more if presented with the specimen."

mystery creature in tuna

Recalling the horrific tuna incident, Butler stated, "I opened the top of the lid and saw a purple thing, a gut sack or intestine ---then I turned it round and pushed it with a fork and saw it looking back at me."

"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."

Despite the ordeal, the British mother of two said she's not looking for compensation.

"I just want to find out what it is and to make sure it doesn't happen to somebody else," she said, adding, "I don't a want lifetime's supply of tuna!"

I wouldn't either, Zoe.


[Image via Mirror]