Facts about Sea lamprey
Sea lampreys have a very characteristic life cycle. Freshly spawned fish remain in their larval stage - the ammocoetes - for several years. During this time they feed on detritus and plankton. After they metamorphose into the adult form, they begin to feed on blood, which they suck from fish and aquatic mammals with their characteristic sucking, conned mouth. They mate only once in their lifetime and then die.
1Its Latin name is Petromyzon marinus, and it's a member of the Petromyzontidae family.
Petromyzontidae is commonly known as northern lampreys.
2Sea lampreys live in the northern hemisphere.
They live in the western and northern Atlantic, near seashores of Europe and North America, the Black Sea, and the western part of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the contiguous United States, they are a native species to the Connecticut River basin.
3They are medium size fish with eel-shaped bodies.
Lampreys are about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 in) long, have olive or brown-yellow bodies. Skin is darker on the upper side of an animal.
4They have no jaws.
They have jawless suckers studded with teeth. A single sharp tongue is situated in the middle part of the mouth. It serves to penetrate the scales and skin of their prey.
During an attack, sea lampreys attach themselves to the skin of their prey. The teeth are used to grasp and hold on while they feed on body fluids.
5Lampreys belong to a family of ancient fish that existed before the dinosaurs' time.
The first jawless fish appeared on Earth during the Silurian period between 443.8 and 419.2 million years ago.
6They migrate upstream from bodies of water to spawn.
Fish that behave in this way are called anadromous. When they reach their destination, the male begins building a nest in the river substrate, where the female subsequently lays the eggs. Spawning time varies longitudinally within the range of the lamprey. The nest must be located in places with moderate currents that the nest construction can withstand.
7A single female of sea lamprey lays between 30,000 and 100,000 eggs.
After mating, both parents die.
8The spawned larvae find cover in the sand and mud, where they stay for three to four years, feeding on detritus and microalgae.
Lamprey's larvae (ammocoete) spend a few years in fresh bodies of water until they undergo metamorphosis.
9Adults are hematophagous parasites.
This means they feed on the blood of their prey.
10Morphed juvenile lampreys migrate to lakes or saltwater environments.
At this time, they begin to feed on their victims' blood. It is estimated that a single sea lamprey is capable of killing 18 kg (40 lb) of fish annually.
11Lampricides are chemical compounds designed to harm sea lamprey's larvae.
It is being used in ecosystems invaded by lampreys, where they endanger local fauna. Usage of lampricides is safe as it does not harm any other aquatic organisms.
12Invasion of Great Lakes.
In 1835, the sea lamprey was first observed in Lake Ontario. Due to Niagara Falls, lampreys were unable to spread further into other Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the improvements conducted in the early 1900s to the Welland Canal infrastructure, a bypass of Niagara Falls, were enough for the lampreys to begin their invasion.
First was Lake Eerie in 1921, Lake Huron
in 1936, Lake Michigan in 1937, and finally Lake Superior
a year later.
13Being an invasive species, sea lamprey found no natural predators, competitors, parasites, or pathogens in the Great Lakes.
Without proper population control, their numbers multiplied and became detrimental to the local ecosystem.
14Why are sea lampreys so detrimental to the Great Lakes ecosystem?
In their natural habitat - an Arctic Ocean - fish are accustomed to lampreys, so in most cases, their parasitic activity does not kill marine fish. Great Lakes fish did not co-evolve with lampreys, and their organisms are not adapted to this type of injury and anticoagulant enzymes.
15Sea lampreys can be found deep under the sea.
Specimens of the sea lamprey have been recorded at depths of 4000 m (2,5 mi).