The Great Lakes are being terrorized by a parasitic serpentine beast that looks to have escaped from an Alien movie; it has even made its way into the rivers in Toronto. Have you ever heard of sea lamprey?
Their extremely horrific circular rings of teeth, which they utilize to grip onto their watery food and drain them of their blood, are what these eel-like jawless fish are most known for. Most people would be frightened just by pictures of these strange-looking, suction cup-like mouthpieces, and reading about how they consume other aquatic creatures just makes them appear more frightening. The rings of keratinized teeth function in tandem with a sharp tongue to probe and stab the victim rather than actually biting them. Instead, they act more like articulated sawblades that grind away at tissue. Lamphredin, an anticoagulant, hemolytic, and cytolytic substance released in its saliva, is what keeps that blood flowing.
Almost 200 years ago, in the years after the completion of the Erie Canal, sea lampreys were discovered for the first time in Lake Ontario. Whether the creatures entered Lake Ontario via its connection to the Atlantic or by man-made canal ties with smaller bodies of water in New York and Vermont, where the species is also endemic, is up for debate.
They are classified as an invasive species by the Province of Ontario, regardless of where they came from. Since the Welland Canal opened up the upper Great Lakes to the species in the early 20th century, lamprey have been able to spread far farther inland.
Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are parasitic fish native to the Atlantic Ocean and North Atlantic coastal regions. They are well-known for their unique and somewhat eerie appearance, with a slender, eel-like body and a circular, jawless mouth filled with rows of sharp teeth, which they use to attach themselves to other fish and feed on their blood and bodily fluids.
Habitat and Range:
Historically, sea lampreys were primarily found in the Atlantic Ocean, where they would migrate upstream into rivers and streams to spawn. However, due to human activities and the construction of canals and locks, they have been able to invade and establish populations in the Great Lakes of North America. Sea lampreys were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes in the early 20th century through the Welland Canal, which bypasses Niagara Falls, creating a pathway for invasive species to move between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.
Life Cycle and Reproduction:
Sea lampreys have a complex life cycle, which involves both a freshwater and marine phase. Adult lampreys spawn in freshwater streams and rivers. The females create nests in gravel beds, where they lay their eggs. After hatching, the larvae (called ammocoetes) burrow into the sediment and filter-feed on organic matter for several years.
As they grow and develop, the ammocoetes undergo metamorphosis, transforming into parasitic juveniles known as “macropthalmia.” At this stage, they migrate downstream to the sea, where they spend several years maturing and feeding on the blood of larger fish, such as salmon and trout.
Adaptation to the Great Lakes:
The introduction of sea lampreys to the Great Lakes had devastating consequences for the native fish populations, particularly species like lake trout, whitefish, and chub. Unlike in their native range, where lampreys had natural predators and environmental factors that kept their populations in check, the Great Lakes provided an abundant food supply and few natural predators, allowing lampreys to thrive and cause significant harm to the ecosystem.
Efforts to Control and Manage Sea Lampreys:
In response to the ecological damage caused by sea lampreys in the Great Lakes, efforts have been made to control their population and limit their impact. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, established in 1955, has been leading control and management programs to reduce sea lamprey numbers using various methods, including barriers, traps, and chemical treatments.
Sea Lampreys feed off larger fish as Salmon, Carp, Trout and Pike but it has been reported that swimmers have been nibbled on by this vampire fish.
How do sea lamprey bites look like
In addition to causing intense agony, lamprey wounds also have an unpleasant look. A swimmer recounted his experience of being attacked by a sea lamprey on the wildlife television program “River Monsters.” He said on the program that the sea lamprey’s wounds matched those of a certain legendary creature, the zombie, which is frequently depicted in horror and fantasy genre works.
The injured area will have round holes and a crimson appearance. A lamprey has between 11 and 12 rows of pointed teeth arranged in a circle. The second set covers the previous set, which is organized in an inner circle. These pointed oral structures pierce the skin and leave wounds and stains. The flesh has been ripped, so the area turned red.
Only when people are famished do they attack them. This is quite improbable because lampreys always have a variety of foods to consume in areas like the Great Lakes, where trout and Chinook salmon numbers are strong.
But what if a human gets attacked by this creature? How to remove this blood sucking vampire fish off?
As a result, adopting the same technique to remove leeches from your body is the best approach, according to specialists, to get a lamprey off of you. Fire! Yes, you can get rid of these unpleasant parasitic creatures by circling a bonfire. It is even simpler if a sea lamprey strikes. Take whatever portion of your body they are fastened to out of the water. When these frightened critters begin to suffocate from lack of water, they will promptly release their grip.
Due to many heavy polluters around Lake Ontario like nuclear power plants in Pickering, Darlington and three other on the US side and steel industry in Hamilton for instance, people have been joking for years that Lake Ontario fish will have three eyes like in The Simpsons cartoons, now many fish in Lake Ontario will have bite wounds from sea lamprey attacks if they stay alive.