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Sea vampires


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The precept of “the big fish eats the small fish” is not always true in the sea. The methods for obtaining food are as varied as the great diversity of forms that inhabit the aquatic world. But undoubtedly, among the strangest animals is the lamprey.

This small fish is a parasite that resembles an eel in shape. It has a strange mouth that lacks jaws but is equipped with 125 sharp teeth with which it attaches itself to the body of its victim, from which it gradually absorbs all its vital fluids through a serrated hole on its tongue, until the attacked animal dies and the lamprey leaves in search of a new host.

Once the lamprey attaches itself to a fish, there is no escape for the victim. There is no way to get rid of the aggressor. The predator manages to keep the victim’s blood in a liquid state through an anticoagulant substance present in its saliva.

The physical characteristics of the lamprey are no less surprising than its feeding method. It lacks a brain and a spinal cord, in fact, it only has a limited amount of nervous tissue. They also lack a skeletal system. They appear as a shapeless mass of protoplasm held together by thick skin. Although they can swim quickly using undulating body movements, they usually travel attached to their victims or remain adhered to rocks on the seabed.

During reproduction, they travel to freshwater to spawn, and they can even ascend small waterfalls by attaching themselves to rocks with their oral disc. Once they find the suitable spawning site, the male and female combine their efforts to prepare the nest. They use stones carried in their mouths to create a concavity about ninety centimeters in diameter and fifteen centimeters deep. Inside this nest, the female deposits 200,000 eggs, while the male, coiled around her, fertilizes the nest with sperm. After this encounter, both of them die.

In the Middle Ages, lampreys were considered an exquisite dish, worthy of the highest diners, and they were used to entertain them. It is quite common for a diver exploring the seabed to see a fish with a lamprey attached to its side. It is somewhat sad to know that it is definitively condemned, but such is the game of life. This is what we often call “balance.”

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”