Story By: Feza Uzay, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
This picture shows the shocking image of a newly discovered type of vampire parasite erupting from a fish’s body in a real-life imitation of the film “alien”.
The shocking looking parasite is one of 24 new species of the killer parasite Cymothoa exigua discovered in Turkey that, like the alien in the film, stays alive by feeding on its host from the inside.
They start off by drinking the fishes blood like a vampire, using the claws to cut off the blood supply to the fishes tongue which then withers and dies, leaving the parasite in its place drinking the blood from the vessels that fed the tongue.
Like the alien in the film, it can then also consume what the fish eats, leaving the host weakened before eventually erupting from the body.
According to Prof. Dr Argun Akif Ozak from the Fish Diseases Department of the Cukurova University Faculty of Fisheries, the parasite species attach to the fish’s skin, gills, and tongues and prevent both feeding and development of the fish. They can also even cause death.
Shockingly, specimens of cymothoa exigua can even go one stage further than the alien in the film, as most fish are usually infected by more than one of the parasites.
In addition, they breed while inside the fish before exiting the host, and can change their sex at will in order to ensure there is a pair and that they can reproduce. This typically takes place when the parasites move to the fish’s gills.
The new isopod species, known generically as fish parasites or fish lice, causes many fish deaths, especially in farmed fish that are often packed closely together, negatively affecting the fish population and the local economy.
Dr Ozak added that each of these parasite species, which are related to shrimp and crabs, feeds differently: “While one species prefers sea bass, another prefers bluefish.”
It was not revealed whether any of the 24 new species had been named yet.
Stating that the parasites can roam freely in the water during the larval stage, Dr Ozak explained: “When fish take water into their mouths for respiration, they also take these larvae in. Another way is that these parasites can grab hold of the fish when it passes over them, as these parasites are susceptible to light.”
After attaching to their ‘victim’, the parasites start to grow and can reach up to 5 centimetres in length.
Mehmet Nuri Kilic, who has been fishing for 20 years, stated that the fish lice are generally seen in farmed fish, adding: “We rarely encounter these parasites. They live in the mouths of fish. It affects the nutrition of the fish and weakens them. The body of a fish with parasites is noticeably weak. When you catch the fish, it would not feel firm but rather puny.”
Dr Ozak said the parasites are not harmful to people, adding: “Consumers don’t need to be afraid.”
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