When Leeches Attach

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Leeches are worms that have long, pulpy, and husky bodies. They’re capable of stretching or contracting their length. Leeches have been used as a medical treatment for centuries.

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Leeches are predatory worms that have long, pulpy, and husky bodies. They’re capable of stretching or contracting their length. They’re capable of doing this thanks to their unique muscle distribution. Not only do they have longitudinal and circular muscles, but also several diagonal ones. They’re directly related to other kinds of non-aggressive worms, such as the earthworm. The main difference between leeches and other different types of worms is that they have parts on either side of their bodies. It’s believed that leeches have been around since the Jurassic period. They’ve evolved from a larger kind of worm, which can be traced back to over 437 million years ago. The largest types can grow as big as 18 inches and have been known to live for over 20 years. This is undoubtedly a great feat for an insect. Leeches are hermaphrodites, but they don’t reproduce by themselves. Instead, they align with another specimen of its species. This allows them to reproduce with ease. These predatory worms can barely see, and they don’t hear at all. They can sense the environment around them through their skin. They also use their sense of taste in surprising ways. Leaving behind chemical residue, they can communicate with other leeches. They’re surprisingly adaptable, being able to survive a whole year without food. They can also live in environments with low oxygen levels. Leeches have been used as a medical treatment for centuries. In the past, things were drawn from the sick, believing it would improve their conditions. Nowadays, they can be used to help alleviate problems related to osteoarthritis and vein diseases.

There are more than 700 subtypes of leeches, and most of them are aquatic. As a matter of fact, only about 90 species live on earth rather than in bodies of freshwater. Leeches have been found in every single corner of the world, except for Antarctica. Leeches are able to eat an extraordinary amount. They can take in five times their body weight at once. These predatory insects store nutrients that haven’t been used in case food sources become scarce. This allows them to survive many months without finding new prey. The leech might seem like an insignificant and noncomplex insect but it’s far from that. Most subspecies have 32 brains, and their bodies are comprised of 34 different segments. Most leeches feed themselves from unsuspecting animals, but there are some non-predatory species. These leeches instead eat decaying plants or tiny insects. They have to try and avoid several different predators. Mostly fish, such as brasses and catfish, but also turtles and birds. What’s peculiar about the leech is that it will even attach itself to its predators.

Leeches have three different rows of fangs. They usually leave Y-shaped marks after biting their prey. These are sharp enough that they can actually penetrate the skin of a hippo. Their mouth is located behind the sharp teeth, which leads directly towards their digestive system. When a leech bites, it release an anticoagulant called hirudin. It’s found in its saliva. Leeches can’t move very fast since they wiggle their bodies to squirm forward. This means that they can’t precisely hunt down their prey. Their feeding sessions tend to be long-lasting; over 40 minutes at a time. This is especially true when it comes to leeches that have been used for medical research. Another risk of being bitten by a leech is the possibility that the person might be allergic to it. This could cause them to go into anaphylactic shock.

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