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Categories & Keywords

Subcategory:Marine Life
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:Cymothoa, anemonefish, clownfish, exigua, isopod, parasite
Photo Info

Dimensions3490 x 3490
Original file size5.75 MB
Image typeJPEG
Color spacesRGB
Open Wide

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Cymothoa exigua in an anemone fish (yellowtail clownfish)

Date taken: Jan 2, 2017 at 10:49am
Dive site: Serena Patah, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

Ever since I first learned about these tongue-eating fish parasites (isopods), I look to see which poor fish are hosting them. While somewhat gross, it doesn't seem like the isopod does any harm after it eats the tongue of its host; the parasite actually replaces the tongue not seeming to inflict further damage to the host.

Anyway, I've always loved clownfish and in this anemone there were a couple black/yellow ones that were quite large. I got into position to look at them and this one just turned and opened her mouth at me... I have no idea why but she did (I think she knew this is what I wanted). Once she did that, she swam above me and never really came back to pose; mostly she just guarded her anemone and swam at me in more aggressive patterns. But, that first look at me; it was awesome! I took only this one shot so you can imagine my excitement as I zoomed in to see the parasite in super sharp focus. That was only 5 mins in to the dive and I almost wanted to surface just so I could go back to my computer and triple check the sharpness of the shot.

I remember that day well; it had been an absolutely incredible day of diving and we were only halfway through it. I was suspicious. I started to think these resorts collude with the critters to be on extra-special behavior on the last full diving day of guests - so that we're even more motivated to book again and come back!! (which we WILL; we LOVE LOVE LOVE Lembeh and [email protected] / Lembeh Resort - they're AMAZING).

Learn more!
NatGeo: Tongue-Eating Fish Parasites Never Cease to Amaze

Wikipedia: Cymothoa_exigua