Leeches Facts

Leeches Facts
Leeches are types of worms. Their closest relatives are earthworms. There are over 650 species of leeches. They differ in size, type of diet and habitat. Leeches usually inhabit marshes, rivers and ponds. One fifth of all leeches live in the sea, while certain species live attached to the forest vegetation. The most popular species of leeches is Hirudo medicinalis, better known as medical leech. It is used for several medical procedures. Unfortunately, number of medical leech in the wild is decreased due to habitat loss (as a result of increased agriculture), water pollution and introduction of invasive species. It is listed as endangered species.
Interesting Leeches Facts:
Size of a leech depends on the species. Some species can reach 16 inches in length. Most leeches are usually 0.3 to 3 inches long.
Body of leeches is composed of 34 segments. Their body is brown or black in color.
Leeches have suckers on both ends of their body. Most species have three jaws equipped with small, sharp teeth. Their teeth are even able to pierce thick skin of a hippo.
Leech has 32 brains. Due to similarity with the nervous system of humans, leeches are often used in the investigations of brain disorders.
Majority of leeches eat blood. Certain species of leeches consume decaying plant material or various worms and insects.
Blood-eating leeches use their suckers to attach to the skin of various animals. They eat blood of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish.
Leeches have huge appetite. They can ingest amount of blood that is five times bigger than their own weight. Once they are full, leeches will detach from the victim.
Since they are able to eat a lot in a single meal, leeches can survive without food period of one year.
Although leech pierces skin and sucks a huge amount of blood, process is not painful at all. Leech produces anesthetic which reduces the pain and allows undisturbed extraction of blood. Also, leech releases anticoagulant, called hirudin, which prevents blood coagulation.
Both anticoagulant and anesthetic produced by leech are used in medicine for the production of drugs. Leeches are used for bloodletting in medicine. This method is very old, dating back from 1000 years B.C.
Leeches have several natural predators: large mouth brass, larvae of a dragonfly, catfish…
Leeches are hermaphrodites which mean they have both male and female reproductive organs.
Leeches are able for self-reproductions (they do not require partner for reproduction). They produce large number of eggs and lay them either in a cocoon or store them in their own body.
Leeches are incredible animals. They can survive loss of 9/10 of their body weight and exposure to heavy chemicals.
Different species of leeches have different lifespan. Some leeches can survive up to 10 years.

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