Tongue-eating lice hit catfish farm

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An outbreak of tongue-eating isopods has occured on a catfish farm in India.

According to a paper in the latest issue of the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, the parasites, which look like they've come from a science fiction film, infected a cage of Mystus gulio on a catfish farm in India.

The bizarre creatures have been identified as Cymothoa indica, a species of tongue-eating isopod that usually infects rabbitfishes of the Siganidae family and belonid needlefishes.

The parasites had attacked the catfish and taken up residence in the buccal cavity - the loose area in which the tongue sits.

Within just 10 days all of the catfish infected by the parasites were dead.

The catfish, Mystus gulio, is a popular food fish and sometimes enters the aquarium trade via specialist shops.

Coincidentally, a related species of tongue-eating isopod, turned up this week inside the mouth of a Red snapper purchased from a London supermarket.

For more details see the paper: Rajkumar, M., Kumaraguru Vasagam, KP., Perumal, P and JP Trilles (2005) - First record of Cymothoa indica (Crustacea, Isopoda, Cymothoidae) infecting the cultured catfish Mystus gulio in India. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 2005 Jul. 18: 65(3) 269-272.