Animals - mainly insects - can disgust us regularly, with characteristics and behaviors that many deem unclean or improper. Still, some of these creatures are more prominent offenders than others.
From the isopod that feasts on tongues to the larvae that live inside a frog's face, join us as we uncover seven of the most disgusting animal dwellings in the world. Just make sure you're not eating when you read it!
Tongue Eating Louse
Okay, so only half of this fearsome bug's name is true. Unfortunately for their fishy victims, the tongue-eating part is an accurate description. But these critters aren't lice; they're isopods, possessing hard shells and several shared characteristics with lobsters.
When these isopods are young, they seek a fish to live inside, making a comfy home in the animal's gills. As they grow, every tongue-eating louse in the group is a male until something unique happens. One lucky swine transforms into a female, then makes her way into the fish's mouth. Here, she attaches herself to the fish's tongue and drinks its blood until the tongue withers and drops off.
As this happens, the isopod grabs the tongue stump and becomes a new tongue for the fish. Sadly, for the fish, there's not much they can do about it. A lack of hands means they have nothing to remove the pesky critter and instead have to carry it around for years.
This is just one of around 400 species of isopods that attack fish. Some attach to gills, others aim for skin and fins, and some even burrow into the fish's muscles!
While the majority of the blow-fly genus seek out dead prey for their larvae, one species targets live prey. The Toad Fly seeks out amphibious victims and lays their eggs on the backs and flanks of these unfortunate hosts. When the eggs hatch, the larvae make their way into the head and nasal cavities.
Here, they begin to consume the toad from the inside out. And as they block the nasal passages, they make breathing increasingly difficult for the toad. Not only is this a disgusting dwelling, but it's also pretty cruel to the toad!
If you have squeamish tendencies, it might be best to look away now. These microscopic mites make their homes on human faces; chances are you have multiple mites attached to your face right now. But most of them spend most of their time exploring your hair follicles.
Though they are called "eyelash" mites, you can also find these eight-legged creatures on the forehead, nose, and eyelid. In general, they sleep through most of the day and crawl out to explore your face at night, moving at the incredibly slow rate of 1.3 cm per hour. If they're feeling peckish, they enjoy sucking oil from your skin or consuming dead skin.
Eyelash mites sound gross, but they're harmless enough. But it's a different story for other skin parasites, such as itch mites. As little as a dozen of these pesky critters can be enough to cause scabies, and the females to burrow into the skin, creating tunnels up to an inch long and burying their tiny eggs.
Some birds use leaves and twigs to build their nest, but not the white-nest swiftlet. Their nest is "white" because it's constructed from the swiftlet's saliva. It may sound gross, but this gooey fluid serves its purpose perfectly. First, the swiftlet finds a cave wall in a good location; then, it sets to work, spending hours threading the sticky saliva together until it dries to form a hard shell.
Once complete, the female lays two white eggs; once the babies hatch, this salivary nest is strong enough to hold them until they are strong enough to live an independent life. In the meantime, mum and dad work together to source tasty insects to feed their family.
You might think that living in a nest made from your parent's saliva sounds disgusting, but once the babies flee the nest, human workers scour cave walls to collect these constructions so that chefs can turn them into the delicacy "bird's nest soup." The dish is popular in Southeast Asia, with many believing it is the key to a longer life.
Bone-Eating Snotflower Worm
The idea of spending your life inside a rotting whale carcass might not sound too appealing - unless you're a Bone-Eating Snotflower worm. The female variations of this weirdly named worm shoot thousands of eggs into the water. Many of these eggs never hatch, instead becoming fish food.
But, for a lucky few, they manage to land on a rotting corpse. Here the females attach themselves to the whalebone and insert a set of "roots" that enable them to break down the bone and absorb oils, fats, and other nutrients. The main body of the Bone-Eating Snotflower worm is pink and (as you may have guessed) covered in snot-like mucus.
These creatures also extend flower-like plumes that absorb oxygen from the water. Sometimes a whale carcass has so many of these worms attached to it that it looks like a frilly pink carpet.
But what about the males? Their abode may be even stranger as they reside inside the females! The male worms look entirely different from the females and are far smaller, which means a female can house dozens of them inside her main body tube.
If you picture a bird's nest, you probably conjure images of twigs, grass, and leaves. These materials are most used for nest building but not for the burrowing owl.
These nocturnal animals build their nests using poop and are not fussed about where the fecal matter comes from. But there is a purpose to this practice; the poop attracts insects, which gives the burrowing owl a stream of food delivered right to their "door." And these little critters are a vital source of nourishment for owners.
Bone House Wasp
The Bone House Wasp constructs its nest by mixing soil with gooey saliva. Still, that's not the most disgusting thing about the dwellings of this wasp. In 2014, scientists examining the nests of these insects discovered that the two outermost walls are packed with the bodies of dead ants.
It might sound disgusting to stuff each end of your house with rotten corpses, but there's an important reason why the wasps do this. The scent emitted by the ant's bodies can lead attackers to believe that another predator is present. Additionally, it can help to cover the smell of the Bone House Wasp.