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Friday Creature Feature: Sea Lamprey
At right is a photo that first appeared over on Reddit. The photo was uploaded this month, about two weeks ago by a user named jlitch, and made the rounds on the Internet like all good horrifyingly confusing photos tend to do.
The human subject of the photo, probably some local fisherman out for a pleasure cruise in the eel-infested waters of New Jersey on a summer day, has speared what obviously looks to be a monster.
Those who were bored enough to question the authenticity of the photo crying “Photoshop!” did so while the rest of us hid under our beds clutching a butter knife, sad that we had no harpoon to defend ourselves against the monster. Jlitch posted another photo to prove the creature was real and that his friend was too.
This time we were treated to more than just the fishermen’s forearm. We see the fisherman, Doug Cutler, an employee of a New Jersey fish hatchery, standing resplendent in a gray t-shirt, black shorts, and wrap-around sunglasses holding the monster aloft- likely the slimiest trophy fish ever shot with a bow and arrow.
The camera’s perspective in the first picture presented the thing as larger than it actually is but nevertheless it is still gruesome like a leech or eel.
Since it’s definitely real, what is it? Consensus seems to be that it is a sea lamprey: a brownish-grayish aquatic creature with a white underbelly that can grow to be almost four feet long and weigh up to five pounds. The live in the Atlantic Ocean and are an invasive species in the Great Lakes region.
The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is a parasite that feeds on blood with a suction cup mouth that it uses to attach itself to a host. It will then use its teeth and tongue to shred away the tissue and skin of a fish or whale. Then the chewed up fish the lamprey dined on will later die from blood loss or infection.
Sea lampreys migrate from the ocean into rivers during the autumn and winter to spawn in the spring and summer. The scientific adjective for this behavior is: anadromous.
The IUCN Red List website says: “Spawning individuals cease their normal daylight avoidance reaction and reproduce on sunny days.” Which means the sea lamprey are like the freaks of horror movies and they usually only come out at night.
Males dig a shallow nest, they spawn, and then they die unless someone comes along and shoots them with an arrow first.
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.