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Home Random stuff Tongue Eating Louse, what is it and is it harmful to humans?

Tongue Eating Louse, what is it and is it harmful to humans?

What if a sneaky parasite ate your entire tongue then lived in your mouth acting as a replacement? You would have a tongue sized bug living there forever! That’s what happens to some fish when the tongue eating louse finds them…

Just the other day while fishing from my kayak I saw, for the first time, a tongue eating louse..this thing fell out of the mouth of a small trevally I caught .this is the first time I have ever encountered one of these but I knew what it was thanks to a book my 7 year old son Milan has, a book that we read regularly called 100 Most disgusting things on the planet, by Anna Claybourne . The louse fell out of the gills onto my kayak  so I whipped out my Panasonic FT3 camera and filmed it on the deck..take a look at the footage below…I also kept it on the kayak hatch to show the kids once I got back to the beach and Milan remembered what it was straight away..

But first some facts –

  • The 4-cm louse invades the fish by swimming through its gills. It attaches itself the the fish’s tongue and sucks the blood from it until the tongue drops off.
  • Then the louse clings to the muscles at the base of the tongue, and becomes a new tongue for the fish!
  • It feeds on the fish’s blood and fluids
  • It appears the parasite causes no other damage to the host fish?

Sure enough I took a look at the mouth of the Trevally and saw little, too no tongue left! although there is no evidence to suggest that eating a fish that has hosted a louse could harm humans, I personally don’t feel comfortable eating the fish now that I have seen the louse…

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has experienced these parasites and if are harmful to humans in any way ? apparently they are common but this is the first I have ever seen…




Milan, Amelia and Alexander greeting me at the beach after this session (Alexander is holding the tongue-less Trevally! )




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8 Comments  comments 

8 Responses

  1. Neil .Hutchins

    a lot of the trevally caught down this way/south east of south australia,seem to contain these.i personally have seen a lot of these parasites,living in the mouths of our smaller silver trevally,some climb out or fall out of there own accord,others i have removed.i have also placed one on a hook and caught trevally on them,in the earlier days(before i knew what they really were) thinking they must have been feeding on them.because they were so prevalent.prehaps this is how they get there in the first place,as they do look similar to our common sea louse.dont think they pose any threat to humans,as the parasite is located in the head and almost always leaves its host,upon death.quite common to see a few in the bucket,after a session.hope this helps,have never seen them in fish over a kilo or so,so wonder if they stunt the fishes growth.still they must be more common in certain areas.i have never witnessed them in any other species .only trevally?

    • Thanks Neil..very useful feedback.. I don’t catch many trevally, whence this is my first encounter..shame I did not know more earlier as I was going to sushimi this trev for something different ( I mostly catch snapper) but decided otherwise due to the Louse… next time. Cheers

  2. Leon Gallaher : Blackfish,Luderick or as you would call them i think.. Parore are a species which regularly has these. i have heard them referred to as the Doctor as they are usually only found on a healthy fish. I think there may also be a few varieties as i have never noticed any damage or adverse effects to fish. You know you have come close to a fish when you hook the “Doctor” of its tongue!

  3. Wendy (nana)


  4. maria

    I also found two of these in our fishes while eating my dinner, I right away new it was a creature. I have not found yet anything about human harmed if ingested but keep post if you do.

  5. Kay

    All the trevally we caught at Streaky Bay today had these ghastly creatures in their mouths. Some had more than one. When I put the fish into salt water lots of little ones came from the fish. Needles to say we didn’t keep the fish to eat. Someone said they were sea lice but I don’t think so. Like to hear from others who know more about these creatures.

  6. Stephen

    Just watched a documentary on them and in 2009 at Chesapeake bay they almost killed every1 they carry a bad bacterier which is flesh eating and can cause boils alsors and everything watch a movie could the bay and will show use everything

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