Non-feeding attachment of the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

TitleNon-feeding attachment of the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1950
AuthorsCreaser CW
JournalThe Anatomical Record

The sea lamprey, like other parasitic lampreys, feeds by attaching itself by its rasping mouth to the sides of fishes. However, its less well know habit of attaching itself to other living and nonliving objects is sometimes misunderstood. Observations show that it will attach to such objects as rowboats, and their oars, motor boats, and humans. Racing shells, like those to which it attaches in Cayuga Lake, often travel up to twelve miles per hour. In our experiences at Burt Lake, Michigan, it has been observed to overtake and attach itself to motor boats going at a rate up to fiftenn miles per hour. Such attachments may help to account for its recent distribution through the Welland Canal, around Niagara Falls, and through other rivers of the Great Lakes. The sea lamprey also attaches to human swimmers, accoridng to reports from marathon racers in Lake Ontario at Toronto, and swimmers in Burt Lake and Crooked Lake in northern Michigan. Our observations show that they do attach to humans but do not try to feed. They release their hold when the swimmer leaves the water, leaving only a tooth pattern on the unbroken skin. Several false reports of feeding on humans have been assigned to leeches. When the lamprey is spawing it attaches its mouth to stones and moves them in nest building. It probably seldom rests without being attached to somethign living or nonliving.