Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes

Sea lampreys use sharp choppers to attach themselves to cold-blooded prey. Lake trout beware! (Image: Dan Kraker)

Creepy crawly insects and creatures with big teeth and bigger roars can be scary. In preparation for Halloween, here’s a tale of one of the scariest creatures around: the sea lamprey. At about 3-4 feet long, the lamprey slithers through the water like an eel and uses concentric circles of sharp teeth to suction onto its prey. As if that weren’t enough, it then pokes its tongue into its victim and sucks the life out of it.

Part vampire, part alien invader, the sea lamprey originally thrived in the Atlantic Ocean. In the early 1900s we forged a path for sea lamprey to swim into the Great Lakes (silly humans). Since fish in the Great Lakes did not evolve with the lamprey, they were not prepared for the attacks. Lampreys have annihilated lake trout and other fish in the Great Lakes — one can eat up to 40 pounds during its lifespan.

Twin sisters catch a slippery sea lamprey at the Duluth Aquarium. (Image: Dan Kraker)

How far would you go to stop this invasive species? How about turning the tables and dining on lamprey and pasta? That is one possible solution and conservationists are working on more. Take a listen!