What are Lampreys? Facts About lamprey Fish

lamprey fish

Lamprey’s Scientific Name:

The scientific name of the lamprey fish is Petromyzontiformes.

What are Lampreys?

Lamprey’s are an ancient extant lineage of jawless fish; the name lamprey is derived from the Latin Lamptera which means stone licker. There are five known extinct species of lamprey and 38 extant species of lamprey. These carnivorous species are the most well-known and feed by boring into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood. Sea lamprey is an eel type of primitive fish that spends half of its life in marine and another half in freshwater.

Lamprey Characteristics:

Adult lamprey resembles eels in that they have scaleless, elongated bodies. Although lacking in paired fins, adults have large eyes, one nostril on the top of the head, and seven-gill pores on each side of the head. Their body is brown to black on the back and light yellow to light brown on the belly. Just like other fishes, sea lampreys breathe from their gills. They can be easily recognized by their large-mouth, which is filled with circular rows of teeth. Lampreys can reach 12 to 20 inches in length and can weigh 8 to 13 pounds.

Lamprey Species:

The following are the species of lamprey that are found in the United States and Canada.

Sea Lamprey- 

The species live in the open ocean of the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean as well as Delaware River, the great lakes, and other large North American lakes. 

Silver Lamprey-

The species inhabits in the great lakes as well as the Mississippi River, Ohio River, and their tributaries. 

Northern Brook Lamprey-

The species are found in North America in the great lakes region.

American Brook lamprey-

The American brook lamprey occurs in the great lakes and Mississippi river regions and as far north as the rivers of Alaska.

Chestnut Lamprey-

The species often found in the Hudson Bay and the rivers and lakes of Northern Canada as well as the great lakes region. 

Where Does lamprey live?

The Lamprey inhabitants in coastal and freshwater and found in the most temperate regions except those in Africa, The species are native to the Atlantic Ocean and can be seen near the coasts of North America and Europe.

What Do lampreys eat?       

Lamprey feeds on the blood and bodily fluids of other fishes. They attach mouth to their prey like a vacuum cleaner. Lamprey’s sharp teeth and rasping tongue easily damages the skin of their prey and induces blood flow. Lamprey usually attacks white fish, trout, and chub. Along with fish, lamprey also feeds on small invertebrates. The species also uses its mouth to attach itself to the stones and take rest during migration from marine to freshwater. 

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Lamprey Life Cycle: 

The lamprey has a complex life cycle consisting of various stages. They begin life in Great lakes, streams, as non-parasitic larvae that feed on plankton and detritus for 3 to 10 years depending on the environmental condition and growth. Larval lamprey begins a metamorphosis developing eye, and oral disks and tongue covered with pointy teeth and begin migrating to the lakes. They become parasitic juveniles and feed on the blood of host fishes for 12 to 18 months. During the winter or early spring, juvenile lamprey stops feeding and begin to search for suitable spawning streams. After finding and entering a suitable stream, lamprey gets sexually mature into adults, reproduce during spring and early summer, and die shortly after spawning. They can deposit as much as 1, 00,000 eggs in the stony nests.

Do lampreys Attack Humans?

According to a study of stomach content of lampreys has shown the remains of intestines, fins, and vertebrate of prey. However, attacks on humans do have occurred, but they do not attack humans unless starved.

Are Lamprey Endangered?

According to the IUCN red list, the sea lamprey species are classified as least concern. They can be used and fished as a delicacy in some European countries. Sea lamprey acts as parasites and invasive species. It attacks and decreases the population of native fish and disturbs the natural balances of the eco-system. The average lifespan of these species is around 14 years. 

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