Animals

Lamprey Facts

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If you are a fan of ancient sea predators, then you are in for a treat! Here we have all the Pacific lamprey facts that will make you inquisitive about lampreys. Lampreys belong to the class of Hyperoartia and have three different families and eight genera.

Lamprey is a parasitic fish that lives off the host. The most common fish to which a lamprey attaches itself is a lake trout by its mouth, a fresh water fish that is found in abundance in lakes. The lamprey, thereby, derives its nutrition by sucking the body fluids out of the lake trout. Lampreys spend a substantial amount of their life in the fresh water habitat where they feed on small fishes and then ultimately become a parasite by choosing a preferable host like the lake trout. These fishes use migration for spawning and often lay their eggs on the sea bottom filled with gravel and sand particles. These ancient sucking fishes might seem disgusting but like fully grown fish they have fins, a head, functioning gill in seven parts, sharp jaws, a sharp tongue with numerous teeth on their mouth. Also, if a lamprey successfully bites another fish with its strong teeth, chances are that the host fish won't survive long.

If you want to learn more about sea lamprey facts then do continue reading the article. If you find our content interesting and informative, then check out lungfish fish and skate fish facts too.

Lamprey

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small lake fish

What do they eat?

Omnivore

Average litter size?

30000-100000 eggs

How much do they weigh?

Sea Lampreys: 5.1 lb (2.3 kg), Freshwater Lampreys: 0.2 lb (82 g)

How long are they?

5-40 in (13-100 cm)

How tall are they?

N/A

What do they look like?

Brown, green, red

Skin Type

Scale-less

What are their main threats?

Climate change, changes in oceanographic regimes

What is their conservation status?

Near Threatened, 5 species Extinct

Where you'll find them

Temperate zone

Locations

North Atlantic coasts and the Mediterranean Sea

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Hyperoartia

Scientific Name

Petromyzontiformes

Family

Petromyzonidae, Geotriidae, and Mordaciidae

Genus

Petromyzon

Lamprey Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a lamprey?

Lamprey belongs to the phylum Chordata and is classified or referred to as jawless fish.

What class of animal does a lamprey belong to?

Lampreys are fishes and they belong to the class of Hyperoartia.

How many lamprey are there in the world?

There are around 40 different species of lampreys that were found on earth and among them five are extinct. Since these fishes have a huge litter size of around 30000-100000 eggs, keeping track of the number of lampreys is very difficult. It can be assumed that they are found in abundance.

Where does a lamprey live?

Lamprey is the kind of fish that can be usually found in temperate regions. There are two different types of lampreys that are parasitic in nature. The Anadromous species usually reside in river systems or they can be found at sea where they feed on their prey. It is usually seen that the smaller species prefer residing near the shores. The larger species can be found in lakes, especially the Great Lakes. The ones that are non-parasitic stay in freshwaters and can be found in the Atlantic coasts of Europe, North America, and the northern Atlantic in the western part of the ocean. A few species can be found in Australia and Tasmania.

What is a lamprey's habitat?

The habitat of a lamprey is definite and changes in phases of its life cycle. When the lampreys are in the larval state they appear as worm-like filter-feeding fishes that eat from the sand bed of rivers. After their larval stage, they undergo extensive metamorphosis when they start swimming freely and start migrating to lakes and oceans where they eventually turn parasitic in nature. However, at a later stage in their life, they return to freshwater.

Who do lampreys live with?

Parasitic lampreys reside with their hosts. Fishes in the temperate regions often receive a lamprey bite, where the lamprey attaches itself to the body of a fish and starts sucking the blood and muscle tissue of the host thereby surviving in nature.

How long does a lamprey live?

The average lifespan of a lamprey from young to adult is around six years. However, some lampreys can live more than 10 years depending on the maturity of their lifecycle.  

How do they reproduce?

The spawn of the lampreys occurs only once in their lifetime. When they are born they remain in their larvae state where their sexes are not differentiable. After metamorphosis, they become parasites and travel to the sea. After a considerable amount of time when their gametes mature, they return to freshwater for their final metamorphosis where mature sperms and eggs are formed in respective male and female adult lampreys. Both genders develop secondary sexual characteristics before mating and after spawning, they die. Before spawning, lampreys carry out specific behaviors like nest building and a typical fanning behavior.

What is their conservation status?

Though lampreys have resided on our planet for the last 280 million years, they are not extinct. Out of approximately 40 species, only five have gone extinct while the rest have the status Near Threatened due to climate changes and occasional changes of their habitats due to human activities.  

Lamprey Fun Facts

What do lampreys look like?

Lampreys are often depicted to be eel-like. Similar to that of an eel, lampreys have elongated bodies. They have their skeletons made out of cartilages not bones, as is the case in some other animals. They have large eyes and a nostril but they lack paired fins like other fishes and have two dorsal fins. They also have seven-gill slits on either side of their head through which they feed via the process of gas exchange. The suction-like lamprey mouth has a buccal cavity with a tongue and numerous teeth through which they attach themselves to the body of their hosts and draw the body fluids. They don't have jaws, but they have an oral disc that contains many unicuspid teeth, which are very sharp. These are referred to as horny teeth and these horny teeth have horny and non-horny layers.

Lampreys can look intimidating.

How cute are they?

Lampreys are often not considered cute by people. Their haggard appearance and sucker-like mouth can be ugly. Moreover, due to their eel-like body, people often don't regard them as fishes.

How do they communicate?

Lampreys are animals that prefer staying alone and they only communicate with others while feeding. As a result, their senses are not developed for communication rather only for perception. For foraging, lampreys use electroreception. For preying on others, lampreys use a small quantity of very low frequency of electric fields to momentarily stun their prey.

How big is a lamprey?

Lampreys can be found in many different sizes and they have sizes ranging from 5-40 in or 13-100 cm.

How fast can a lamprey swim?

Lampreys are generally slower than other fishes that are found in the wild in terms of speed. However, they aren't extremely slow. Sea lampreys may reach up to a speed of 1 m/s or 3.6 km/hr.

How much does a lamprey weigh?

Lampreys are found in a wide variety of sizes and as a result, their weight is also different. Moreover, the weight of the lampreys also differs from species to species. The sea lampreys are usually heavier in weight and can measure up to 5.1 lb (2.3 kg), while the freshwater lampreys are relatively lighter and weigh about 0.2 lb (82 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name for male and female lampreys. Like other fishes, both the male and female variants are just referred to as fish.

What would you call a baby lamprey?

Since lampreys are not considered proper fishes, the baby lampreys are not called fry. On the contrary, owing to their strange lifecycle, the baby lampreys are referred to as larvae.

What do they eat?

Lampreys exhibit two distinct feeding characteristics. In the larva stage aka ammocoetes, the lampreys or ammocoetes eat phytoplanktons, algae, diatoms, pollen from the rivers' bed, which is termed as filter-feeding and occurs due to the unidirectional flow of water in their mouth similar to a water filter. When the lampreys undergo metamorphosis and grow into the parasitic stage, they feed on the fish flesh of the host and draw their nourishment from the blood and body fluids of the host fish.

Are they dangerous?

Lampreys are extremely dangerous as a single lamprey can kill more than 40 lb of fish which poses a serious threat to the fishing industry. The destructive nature of the lampreys is so high in magnitude, which can be understood by the fact that only one out of seven fishes can survive if they are ever attacked by a lamprey. Lampreys are, however, unlikely to attack humans and are mainly a threat to other fish.

Would they make a good pet?

It would be extremely unwise to keep lampreys as pets. Since the lifespan of lampreys is different, the larva state i.e. ammocoetes can be kept as pets. However, they must be kept in an aquarium that contains a highly active biological substrate as they feed on microbes. However, if you wish to keep a lamprey as a pet in its parasitic state, then proper care must be taken. The lamprey should be kept in a separate aquarium devoid of other fishes or animals. A constant supply of fresh or dead fish should be provided to maintain its appetite. The fully matured lampreys shouldn't be kept as pets, as in their final stage of life, the only thing they care about is spawning, and after fanning the female lays eggs, and after which both the parents die.  

Did you know...

Lampreys have a notochord like other fishes, but they lack vertebrae. Out of all the types of lampreys that are found on earth, the silver lamprey is considered the most primitive amongst all lampreys.

The lampreys attacked the Erie Canal and Welland Canal in 1819 and 1829 respectively, when the canals were opened and as a result, the fishes of Lake Ontario were allowed to travel from the Upper Great Lakes of America from the Atlantic Ocean.

If the sea has a lack of natural predators due to coastal pollution in the waters, lampreys from the northern streams which often spawn in the ocean don't travel upstream but remain in the American seas and takes control of the sea pests. These fishes don't migrate upstream, but stay in the seas and prey on both cartilaginous and non-cartilaginous fishes and control the sea habitat.

Do people eat lamprey?

Yes, people do eat sea lamprey after cutting their heads off. Lamprey pie is a well-known delicacy.

Differences and similarities with other common fish

Lamprey fish is different from normal fishes and is often not considered a true fish. However, they have a resemblance to eels, and thus, they are often mistaken for eels.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including codfish, or fluke fish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our butterflyfish coloring pages.

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