Arctic lampreys are a circumpolar species of eel-like jawless fish. They exhibit sexual dimorphism in the fact that females are smaller than males.
Arctic Lamprey Scientific Classification
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Size: Arctic lampreys are 5.1-12.6 in (13-32 cm) in length. Some individuals can reach lengths of up to 25 inches (63 cm).
Weight: Their wet weight can range from 0.11 to 3.09 oz (3.2-87.7 g).
Color: They exhibit a grey, brown or olive color on the dorsal side while the ventral parts are pale.
They are distributed from the Lapland in Finland to Kamchatka in the Russian Far East and extend to Japan and Korea in the south. Arctic lampreys also live in the waters close to Alaska and Northwestern Canada.
They prefer a coastal freshwater habitat spread across sandy and stony substrates. They can be found sheltered under riparian vegetation in these habitats.
- They migrate from freshwater to the sea once they metamorphose into adults and return back to their roots after 1 to 4 years.
Adults are parasitic feeders who attach to fish like lake trout, salmon, and common whitefish. Juveniles feed on algae, aquatic invertebrates, and organic debris.
Mating & Reproduction
The mating process of Arctic lampreys involves the male and female participating in construction of redd, which is a nest made by removing rocks with their mouths and using their tails to fan out the smaller particles. They then move on to intertwining with each other and depositing eggs and sperm into this nest. Females are capable of depositing up to 100,000 eggs based on her size. Depending on the water temperature, eggs can take between 1 to 2 weeks before hatching.
The hatchlings are born without eyes and mouths with which they can suck. This larval form of these organisms, called ammocoetes, can last between 3 to 7 years before they metamorphose into adults, gaining their eyesight, mouth and teeth. They also become sexually mature after metamorphosis.
They live for around 7 years.
- They are well-adapted to living in the cold waters of the Arctic.
- The sharp teeth of the Arctic lamprey aid it in clinging to its host and sucking its blood.
- They have a rough tongue which helps them to get through the skin of other fish.
- Their body helps them move in a zigzag pattern thus avoiding predators.
Arctic lampreys are preyed on by river otters, fishes and gulls.
IUCN Conservation Status
The Arctic lamprey is categorized under the ‘Least Concern’ list of the IUCN.
- There were Arctic lampreys falling from the sky in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was argued and accepted that gulls had picked up the lamprey and eventually dropped them in mid-air.
- They are the most common lamprey in the world.