BIO 203


   Closely resembling an eel found in the ocean, the Silver Lamprey is highly suited for the Northern, freshwater environment and the diet of other fish species.  

     This serpentine organism features a set of sharp teeth made for latching and holding onto its host organism while it feasts on the host’s blood and muscle tissue (Robison et al. 2011).  The teeth are such a prominent feature of the Silver Lamprey, that its scientific name, Ichthyomyzon unicuspis, actually describes the circumoral teeth shape and arrangement (Robison et al. 2011).  The lamprey also employs a tooth-bearing piston that it uses to effectively open a hole in the host in order to extract the blood or muscle tissue that is necessary for the nutrition of the lamprey (Bartels et al. 2012).  For more information about the mouth structure of a lamprey, click on this link.

Body Structure   
     Another distinguishing feature of this amazing, aquatic parasite is its snake-like form made for ease of movement through the water.  It is most common to find anywhere between 46 to 55 myomeres per lamprey (Robison et al. 2011).  Whenever you eat fish, you are eating its myomeres as the myomeres of a fish are simply the folds of muscle that give the fish its flaky texture and usually white appearance (Encyclopedia Britanica 2014).  The Silver Lamprey also sports a dorsal fin that is undivided and runs along roughly the entire posterior half of the lamprey (Robison et al. 2011).  Like all fish, this fin aids in locomotion through the fluid-filled environment that it lives in.   The Silver Lamprey uses a method of swimming called anguilliform swimming which is a fancy way of saying that two vortexes are produce per tail-beat in the wake of the lamprey; most other fish only produce one vortex per tail-beat (Leftwich et al. 2011).  As an added bonus, the lamprey does not have a hard time wriggling into the branchial cavity of some fish where it is often found. The slender profile and scaleless skin also creates an advantage for this parasite because it means that it creates less drag (Leftwich et al. 2011).  For example, these organisms spend much of their time being dragged around by the host, so if the lamprey had too much drag, it would not only be harder for the lamprey to hold on, but it would also take more of a toll on the energy reserves of the host which may kill the host and leave the lamprey without food.

Silver Lamprey

Shown above is the Silver Lamprey.

To find additional information, check out the Nutrition page.