Jawless ‘living dinosaur’ that drinks blood spotted for first time in 20 years
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A jawless creature that has been dubbed a "living dinosaur " has been spotted for the first time in 20 years.
After a two-decade-long search, tour guide Sean Blocksidge, tracked down the blood-sucking animal in Australia.
The jawless creature, which has swirling teeth, has merely been a local legend until now, with reports of them migrating up local waterfalls.
Lampreys have a reputation for drinking the blood of their prey – with one genus even nicknamed the vampire fish, reports The Mirror.
Sean said he was left "excited" after discovering six of the animals at once – which evolved millions of years ago.
Speaking about the moment he came across them, he said: “It was a kind of surreal moment.
"I had heard so many stories from the old-timers about how the lampreys used to migrate in their thousands up the waterfalls.
“But we haven’t seen them in our Margaret River system for well over a decade.
"It's been like searching for a yeti or the Loch Ness monster."
“I'm out on the river every day on tour with the canoes and always hoping to spot one, but this was my lucky day."
Sean found them at Yalgardup Falls, where he and his tour groups stop to reflect on Aboriginal and European history.
He said: “I looked down into the water and it looked like a long blue tube sitting in the shallows.
“I went down for a closer look only to discover another half dozen of the ‘tubes’ trying to make their way up the waterfall.
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“It turned out it was the elusive pouched lamprey that I had been trying to find for the past 20 years!”
He added: “The tour group were thrilled. They quickly realised the significance of seeing them once we explained how rare they were.”
The pouched lamprey spends its early life in freshwater, before migrating downstream to the sea where it spends its adult life feeding on other fish.
They later return to the rivers to spawn and die.
Sean said: "They kinda look like an eel. They have a hideous looking dinosaur-like mouth filled with grasping teeth.
“But overall they are very beautiful creatures with iridescent blue eyes, quite obvious gills and a long slender powerful body.”
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Lampreys are at risk of becoming endangered due to climate change and the increasing salinity in the waters where they breed, Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC, reported last year.
Sean said: “They are living dinosaurs and have existed for over 200 million years, but they are in real trouble with climate change.
“Our river system has dried by over 20% in the past two decades and this is thought to be affecting their population.
“Interestingly it was a very wet winter this year and the lampreys obviously knew it was a good year to migrate up the system again.”
Sean added: "Things are slowly deteriorating, but it happens on such a slow human scale that people just get used to the new normal and don't fully appreciate what the long term consequences are.
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“Imagine if these species were to be become extinct in our lifetimes – hundreds of millions of years of existence and they have the potential to disappear on our watch.”
Stephen Beatty, a senior research fellow at Murdoch University in Perth, hailed Sean for raising awareness of the unusual creature.
He told ABC: "It's great that he's increased the awareness of this pretty unique animal.
“In terms of evolutionary significance, they're a pretty amazing animal and we're really lucky to have one of the species come up our rivers in the South West.”
- Great White Shark
- Loch Ness Monster
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