HomeToothey blood-sucking eel found after 20-year hunt for lampreys

Toothey blood-sucking eel found after 20-year hunt for lampreys

The blood-sucking, eel like creatures are a bizarre sight to behold and spotting one has been compared to sighting a “yeti or the Loch Ness monster”.

A terrifying blood-sucking eel with rows of swirling teeth has finally been spotted after a 20-year hunt.

Tour guide Sean Blocksidge extraordinarily discovered six of the lampreys – dubbed “living dinosaurs” – at once, after two decades of searching. The strange jawless creatures evolved millions of years ago and have scaleless, elongated bodies as well as a specialist mouth known as a sucker.

They have a reputation for guzzling the blood of their prey, earning them the nickname of “vampire fish”.

Sean, 49, had heard local legends in Margaret River, Australia, about the elusive lampreys migrating up local waterfalls, but said they had not been sighted in 10 years.

He compared his relentless search to looking for a “yeti or the Loch Ness monster” – and could not believe his luck when he spotted half-a-dozen.

“It was a kind of surreal moment. I had heard so many stories from the old-timers about how the lampreys used to migrate in their thousands up the waterfalls,” the Aussie explained.

“But we haven’t seen them in our Margaret River system for well over a decade.

“I’m out on the river every day on tour with the canoes and always hoping to spot one, but this was my lucky day.

“Yeah, I got a bit excited – and also excited to know they are still here.”

The 49-year-old told how he found the rare lampreys at Yalgardup Falls, a spot where he and his tour groups routinely stop.

He said: “I looked down into the water and it looked like a long blue tube sitting in the shallows.

“That seemed a bit odd as we don’t really get any rubbish in the river.

“I went down for a closer look only to discover another half dozen of the ‘tubes’ trying to make their way up the waterfall.

Elusive lampreys

“It turned out it was the elusive pouched lamprey that I had been trying to find for the past 20 years!”

“The tour group were thrilled. They quickly realised the significance of seeing them once we explained how rare they were.”

The slippery pouched lampreys tend to spend their early life in freshwater before migrating downstream to the sea where it then dines out on other fish during its adult life.

They then return to rivers to breed and spawn before they die.

Sean continued: “They kinda look like an eel. They have a hideous looking dinosaur-like mouth filled with grasping teeth.

“But overall they are very beautiful creatures with iridescent blue eyes, quite obvious gills and a long, slender, powerful body.”

The intriguing species are at risk of becoming endangered due to climate change and the increasing salinity in the waters where they breed, according to ABC.

Sean added: “They are living dinosaurs and have existed for over 200 million years, but they are in real trouble with climate change.

“Our river system has dried by over 20 per cent in the past two decades and this is thought to be affecting their population.

“Interestingly it was a very wet winter this year and the lampreys obviously knew it was a good year to migrate up the system again,” he said.

“Imagine if these species were to be become extinct in our lifetimes – hundreds of millions of years of existence and they have the potential to disappear on our watch.”

Senior research fellow at Murdoch University in Perth, Stephen Beatty, praised Sean’s appreciation of the lamprey.

He told ABC: “It’s great that he’s increased the awareness of this pretty unique animal.

“In terms of evolutionary significance, they’re a pretty amazing animal and we’re really lucky to have one of the species come up our rivers in the South West.”

He told eel hunters the best chance of spotting one was on a rainy winter evening.

This post originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission


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