Friday, 11 September 2015

Video: ALERT: Not for the faint of heart... when have you seen a leech?

Freshwater leeches or blood suckers, as e called them. Annelida Hirudinea
We used to have them all the time on Long Lake, where our cottage was. This was 1960, prior to pollution and humans killing them. I remember keeping a jar of salt on the shore, for when one latched onto us. It killed them instantly.

This one was huge. My frog pond is a perfect habitat for them: still water, dark under the dead leves and vegetation.
There are several website on leeches. FCPS is a school board. Biokids is a good website for kids, from uMichigan.  USEPA, another reputable site.

They have teeth on its head, which bite into its prey. They are parasites, they inject an enzyme into their victims, which makes blood flow (an anticoagulant) and have an anesthetic. They don't need to eat for a year or two, in some cases. There is a sucker on its nether end, too. You can see that on the video.
I've seen leeches attached to turtles, the ones crossing the road. This one had several snails attached!
Snails also attach to turtles!

The earliest evidence of freshwater leeches was in the Jurassic period (~200 million years ago) in Bavaria. While they gross many people out, I wanted to learn some more about them. I still remember panicking as a child. This helps me understand them.

They used them, in ancient medicine, for blood letting. One of those dark arts.

Medicinal Uses 

The European medical leech Hirudo medicinalis and some congeners, as well as some other species, have been used for clinical bloodletting for thousands of years. The use of leeches in medicine dates as far back as 2,500 years ago, when they were used for bloodletting in ancient India. Leech therapy is explained in ancient Ayurvedic texts. Many ancient civilizations practiced bloodletting, including Indian and Greek civilizations.

I found this leech in the pond. I took it out to look at it, putting it in the birdbath. It was gone when I went to show the girls. Being a mid-level critter in the life cycle, it is both prey by birds and other critters, and is parasite for critters in the water. I suspect, however, it crawled its way out.

The leech raised it's head up over the lip of the birdbath and searched for a way out.

Leech from Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.
I haven't seen one of these in years. I found it in the frog pond.


eileeninmd said...

UGH, I have not seen a leech. Neat video, they move fast. Thanks for sharing! Happy Friday, have a great weekend!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Salt will kill slugs too.... They don't bite, but they'll eat up your garden, so everybody learns that instant disintegration trick. Not so many here now though, because, unfortunately, it is drier climate than it used to be. I knew a man years ago who had actually had leech treatment for some weird condition that I'm sure they have a drug for nowadays.

William Kendall said...

They are creepy critters!

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Have dealt with leeches in the tropics and in OZ... don't recall ever seeing anything longer than two inches though!!! YAM xx

Red said...

Leeches do have some bad PR. As you point out they do have their place in the system and they have adaptations that let them survive except from little girls with containers of salt.

Powell River Books said...

That is a huge leech. We went kayaking this week and when we got back, a small one was on the bottom when we put it on top of the car. On one trip, Wayne got one on his foot while walking the kayak through shallow murky water. That was scary. - Margy

Kay said...

I've never actually seen a leech either. I wonder how it came to be that bloodletting was thought to help cure anybody of anything.