Critters of the Chesapeake Bay. Sea Lampreys. Sea Lampreys. Sea lampreys are members of an ancient family of “jawless fishes” that were around before the dinosaurs. Sea Lampreys.
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Sea lampreys are members of an ancient family of “jawless fishes” that were around before the dinosaurs.
Adult lampreys are parasitic on a large variety of fishes and marine mammals where they seek out the largest members of the species.
Adults use their disc-shaped mouth full of teeth to hold fast to fish.
They may stay attached for days, or even weeks feeding of the body fluids of their victims.
Although lampreys are best known for their parasitic exploits in the Great Lakes, they are native to the Chesapeake Bay.
Adults enter the bay’s tributaries from March to June to breed. Adults die soon after this spawning event.
The unattended eggs hatch about two weeks later. The larvae drift downstream, eventually burrowing into sandy or silty areas.
The young lamprey may remain in the sand filter feeding for up to 17 years.
Only the mature sea lampreys are parasitic.
They spend their few adult years along the Atlantic Coast.
Adult sea lampreys grow to about 2.5 feet. They tend to show brown or black mottling dorsally; whitish or gray ventrally.
At present, sea lampreys are not a major problem in the bay. This may be due to the fact that lampreys prefer clear, pollution free waters.