What are tongue biters?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Tongue-biters are fascinating creatures that inhabit the waters of Australia. They are a type of large parasitic isopod known as Codonophilus imbricatus. These peculiar creatures have a unique and rather disturbing behavior – they attach themselves to the tongues of marine fishes.

Imagine swimming in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef, surrounded by colorful coral and a myriad of fish species. Suddenly, you come across a fish with a peculiar protrusion from its mouth. Upon closer inspection, you realize that it is a tongue-biter, firmly latched onto the tongue of the poor fish.

The tongue-biter, as its name suggests, bites into the tongue of the host fish, firmly anchoring itself in place. It then proceeds to feed on the blood and tissues of the fish, essentially acting as a parasite. This behavior may seem gruesome, but it is a survival strategy for the tongue-biter.

These isopods typically target larger fish species, such as groupers or snappers, which provide them with a stable and abundant food source. Once attached, the tongue-biter can stay in place for an extended period, feeding and growing.

Interestingly, the host fish does not necessarily suffer from the presence of the tongue-biter. In fact, some studies suggest that the fish may even benefit from the relationship. The tongue-biter’s presence does not seem to cause significant harm or affect the overall health of the fish. It is believed that the fish’s tongue may eventually regenerate, allowing it to continue feeding and surviving.

The tongue-biter’s life cycle is intricately tied to its host fish. After mating, the female tongue-biter releases her eggs onto the gills of the fish. These eggs then hatch into tiny larvae, which attach themselves to the fish’s gills and eventually migrate to the mouth. Once in the mouth, they latch onto the tongue and begin their parasitic lifestyle.

While the tongue-biter may seem like a gruesome creature, it is important to remember that it is just one of the many unique and fascinating organisms that exist in our oceans. Nature is full of curious and sometimes bizarre adaptations, and the tongue-biter is a prime example of this.

Next time you find yourself snorkeling or diving in Australian waters, keep an eye out for these peculiar creatures. They may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but they certainly add an element of intrigue and wonder to the underwater world.