Thursday March 14, 2024

US Forest Service

Rocky Mountain Research Station Research Ecologist Kellie Carim is shaping modern knowledge of lampreys by using genetic information to reconstruct their taxonomy. Lamprey are known for their teeth; their “alien” appearance, parasitic nature, and snake-like bodies. They are also familiar to those in the Midwest as the infamous Sea Lamprey is invading the Great Lakes. But most people know very little beyond this about these creatures who’ve existed longer than dinosaurs. 

Public knowledge about the invasive sea lamprey is incredibly important from a conservation standpoint, but it overshadows the native lamprey of North America. Further, it is widely unknown that not all lamprey are parasitic, and their circling rows of teeth don’t define them. In fact, even parasitic lamprey are filter feeders as larvae and don’t develop parasitic tendencies until adulthood . While public knowledge of the species is sub-par, even scientists still have a lot to learn. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied their listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2003 because of the lack of information. Until now, scientists have recognized three species of lamprey in western North America: Pacific brook lamprey (Lampetra pacifica), western brook lamprey (Lampetra richardsoni), and western river lamprey (Lampetra ayresii). Yet Carim and her team of scientists found that there is more to the lamprey story.

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