Petromyz’ – Lampreys

Has an evolutionary lineage that dates back more than 360 million years

Lampreys are characterized by their unique jawless mouths, specialized for suction feeding. Instead of the typical jaws found in most fish, they possess circular, toothed mouths that allow them to attach to their prey, usually other fish, and feed on their bodily fluids. Lampreys have an eel-like body shape, and certain species exhibit a captivating anadromous life cycle, shuttling between freshwater and the ocean.

In their life cycle, lampreys begin as larvae called ammocoetes, which filter-feed on microscopic organisms in freshwater. Some species then undergo a remarkable metamorphosis, transforming into parasitic adults with circular, toothed mouths. These adults migrate to the ocean or larger water bodies, attaching themselves to other fish and feeding on their blood and bodily fluids.

These mysterious creatures play crucial roles in both freshwater and marine ecosystems. While parasitic lampreys are sometimes considered problematic in fisheries, they serve a valuable ecological purpose by selectively targeting weaker or diseased fish, contributing to natural population control. Additionally, the carcasses of parasitic lampreys serve as vital nutrient sources for various aquatic organisms, intricately influencing local food web dynamics.

Non-parasitic lampreys contribute to nutrient cycling by consuming detritus and small invertebrates in freshwater habitats. Their activities aid in maintaining ecological balance in these environments, ensuring the proper decomposition of organic matter and the recycling of nutrients.