What we know about lampreys — the arctic bloodsuckers that swarm Alaska rivers by the millions

grayling lampreyLast summer lampreys fell from the sky in Fairbanks. It’s hard to decide which is more astonishing, the aerodynamic mystery of how they got in the sky to start with or the fact that Alaska has lots and lots of the gruesome, prehistoric, flesh-sucking terrors. Millions of them. Squiggling and lurking in every suitable waterway from Southeast to the Arctic Ocean. There’s no reason to stay out of the water on their account, however. Lampreys only latch onto people if they’re starving. And in Alaska, it’s the humans that eat lampreys, not vice versa. University of Alaska Museum of the North curator of fishes Andres Lopez finds the arctic lamprey a truly intriguing animal. Unchanged for nearly half a billion years, it’s a genuine living fossil. “It’s a jawless vertebrate,” he said. “It has a spinal cord, but no skeleton. Just cartilage. Its teeth are not real teeth, but keratin, more like your fingernails.” Read the story here 20:18

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