The depths of the sea are riddled with mystifying wonders and bizarre ocean creatures. While most sea creatures are only terrifying in appearance, there are some ugly ocean creatures that are frightening because of their hostile nature. The sea lamprey is one such creature.
An invasive species, the prehistoric sea lamprey has an eel-like body and corrosive suction cup mouth. It is a parasitic nuisance to the various aquatic regions it inhabits within the United States and Canada. A sudden increase in sea lampreys during the 1940s greatly threatened and endangered a significant number of commercial fisheries throughout the Great Lakes because of their destructive feeding habits. Some interesting facts about sea lampreys not only concern their hematophagous feeding behaviors but also their overall biology. Prepare yourself for an underwater expedition to learn some scary sea lamprey facts that will terrify and educate you on this strange and destructive ocean creature.
Sea Lampreys Are Vampires And Suck The Life Out Of Their Prey
The sea lamprey is nicknamed the vampire of the sea, and for good reason. Their wide suction cup mouths allow them to cling onto their host and feed for a prolong time. The lamprey generally vacuums itself onto one spot of their victim's body, making it an effective method to sucks their prey’s bodily fluids and blood. In addition, the proteins in their saliva widen the blood vessels of their prey while their abrasive tongue and piercing teeth damage the skin of its victim and induce blood flow. This allows the lamprey to consume more nutrients and nourishment in a short amount of time
Lampreys Are Jawless Fish With A Suction Cup Mouth
The sea lamprey has a wide-open mouth that is filled with rows of sharp teeth, formed in a circular setting. This allows the lamprey to suction and anchor itself tightly onto its prey for feeding or a rock for resting. In fact, the lamprey belongs to a superclass of jawless fish known agnathans. Creatures in this group exclude gnathostomes, which are vertebrae species with jaws. The unique thing about the agnathan class is that it’s a prehistoric group that is largely extinct. In fact, only two spices of agnathan survive today: the hagfish and the lamprey.
Lampreys Have Amazing Regeneration Powers
Lamprey fish possess the unique ability of regeneration within their bodies. They share this ability with various creatures such as crabs, sea stars, salamanders, scorpions, and some lizards to name a few. These creatures can regenerate their systems, appendages, or bodily fluids in some form. If a lamprey’s spinal cord becomes completely severed, leaving the creature immobile, they can recover to full mobility again in 10 to 12 weeks. Because the sea lamprey can regenerate some of their long nerve connections, they can heal the injured part of their spinal cord.
Parasitic Sea Lamprey Destroy The Environment
The sea lamprey is considered to be a parasitic fish because it bores holes into its prey while feeding on their blood and bodily fluids, slowly killing their prey and damaging the species overall survival rate. In fact, a single parasitic lamprey can kill over 40 pounds or more of fish in its lifetime. The impact that sea lampreys pose to the ecosystem greatly threatens the lives of the many fish it prefers to feed on, such as the lake sturgeon. Because of the sea lampreys horrendous feeding habits on lake sturgeons, the sturgeon has been marked on the threatened and endangered species list in both New York and Vermont.
They're Really, Really Hard To Stop
Because of the invasive nature of the sea lamprey and after the destruction they caused during the 1940s, conservationists searched for a method to cull the lamprey population. The barriers that were first used to stop the lampreys from reaching the lakes proved to be ineffective. It wasn’t until much later, in the latter half of the 1950s, that biologists created an effective poisonous chemical to control the sea lamprey population, called Lampricide. Lampricide is non-toxic to humans or other aquatic life and only works to kill lamprey in their larval stage. Since then, new techniques such as male lamprey sterilization and pheromone communication methods have been used and prove to be effective as well.
Fish Attacked By Lampreys Have Low Survival Rate
If you're a fish and you get attacked by a sea lamprey, odds are you won't survive. Lampreys love fresh and saltwater fish, including trout, chubs, salmon, sharks, catfish, and some small invertebrates. Approximately one out of seven fish a sea lamprey feeds on may survive. The lamprey’s salvia carries anticoagulant properties, which will prevent a victim's wound from clotting and healing. This allows for more blood loss and serious infections to set in, which inevitably kills the fish. So if the sea lamprey doesn't suck its victim dry right away, the injuries it leaves behind are more than likely going to kill whatever fish it latched.
Sea Lampreys Nearly Collapsed Commercial And Recreational Fishing
During the 1940s and 1950s, an explosion of sea lamprey wreaked havoc to the Great Lakes. The invasive species excessively fed on the lake trout, whitefish, and chubs that dwelled there. Because a single adult lamprey can consume a massive amount of fish in its lifetime, a multitude of lamprey feeding on the lake's fish caused a huge epidemic for the commercial and recreational fishing industries. In fact, before the epidemic, more than 15 million pounds of lake trout could be harvested on a yearly basis from the Great Lakes. However, after the invasion, this number fell dramatically and by the 1960’s only 300,000 pounds was harvested from the lakes.
Did Lamprey Meat Kill King Henry I?
Who would eat a scary fish like the lamprey, right? Actually, as far back as medieval times, the lamprey fish was considered to be a consumable food source and was generally cooked in their own blood with a profuse amount of wine. The lamprey was recorded to be one of King Henry’s (Henry I) favorite meals. In fact, it’s even believed to be the cause of King Henry’s death. However, today lamprey meat is considered a delicacy or necessity in Asia, Portugal, Spain, and Alaska. The market value for live lamprey is around $25 per pounds.