Leeches – Bloody Misunderstood creatures

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For a long I have been working in the outdoor industry and over the years I have come across hundreds if not thousands of leeches. I always would just pull the leech of as soon as possible and throw it back in to the bush being a bit disgusted by them. Never really thinking much about them.

Lately though while working with kids and seeing how irrationally fearful they are of leeches I thought it would be a great idea to learn a bit about them so that I could pass the information onto kids and maybe inspire them to have another look at leeches from a totally different perspective. In the process may I add I became super inspired by these creatures and even though they still look like things out of nightmares I have a new understanding of them and find them to be incredibly interesting

Either way, let me go over some of the incredible things that you probably didn’t know about leeches.

  • Leeches are a type of a worm, in fact they are closely related to the earth worm
  • There are over 650 species of leeches on earth with them ranging from 0.3 inches to 16 inches in length. They are usually brown or black with different color stripes along their bodies
  • One fifth of all leeches live in the ocean with the remaining inhabiting marshes, ponds rivers and forest vegetation.
  • Leaches are made up of 34 segments.
  • Leeches have 32 brains that closely resemble that of humans. So much so that they actually useleech leeches to investigate human disorders
  • Leeches have suckers on both ends of their body and their jaws are equipped with super sharp teeth. Sharp enough to pierce through the thick and tough skin of a hippo.
  • Leeches can eat up to 500% their body mass and with just 1 sitting they can survive a whole year without having to eat again.
  • Leeches can live up to 10 years which in some cases would mean that they could survive of pretty much 10 meals
  • Leeches have been used in medicine for thousands of years. A technique called bloodletting  in which they would use the leeches to suck blood from a patient and due to release of an anticoagulant, called hirudin, blood would flow. These days leeches are still used in medicine for their anticoagulant and anesthetic.
  • Leeches inject their prey with an anesthetic so that they can feed for hours without being disturbed
  • Leeches are hermaphrodites which means they have both male and female reproductive organs. Because of this they can self reproduce. They produce large amounts of eggs which they lay in a cocoon or inside of themselves
  • Leeches can survive with only 9/10 their body weight and even exposure to heavy chemicals

LeechesEven though leeches look and seem like creature out of nightmares after you learn a little about them you quickly realize that they are actually incredible creatures. Sadly though due to destruction of their habitats some of them are becoming endangered. Out of all the creatures who would have though that the common leech would be endangered. If they are in such a bad state imagine creatures that you actually care about, like elephants, rhinos. We need to look at ways that we can protect every creature on this planet, after all we put them in this mess in the first place.

Thanks for reading, if you have any other cool facts about leeches please type them in the comments below. Also follow me on facebook, twitter or instagram.