/lam"pree/, n., pl. lampreys.any eellike marine or freshwater fish of the order Petromyzoniformes, having a circular, suctorial mouth with horny teeth for boring into the flesh of other fishes to feed on their blood. Also called lamprey eel, lamper eel.[1250-1300; ME lampreye < AF *lampreie (OF lamproie) < LL lampreda; r. OE lamprede < ML lampreda]
* * *Any of about 22 species of primitive, jawless fishes (with hagfishes in class Agnatha).Lampreys live in coastal and freshwater in temperate regions worldwide except Africa. Eel-like, scaleless animals, they are 6–40 in. (15–100 cm) long. Lampreys have well-developed eyes, a single nostril on top of the head, a cartilaginous skeleton, and a sucking mouth with horny teeth surrounding the round opening. They spend years as burrowing larvae; adults of most species move into the sea. They attach to fish with their mouth and feed on their host's blood and tissues. Some species will remain in freshwater, notably the sea lamprey, which entered the Great Lakes and nearly eliminated lake trout and other commercially important fishes there.Lamprey (Lampetra) on rainbow trout.Oxford Scientific Films/Bruce Coleman Ltd.
* * *▪ fishany of about 43 species of primitive, fishlike, jawless vertebrates placed with hagfishes in the class Agnatha. Lampreys belong to the family Petromyzonidae. They live in coastal and freshwaters and are found in temperate regions around the world, except Africa. Eel-like, scaleless animals, they range from about 15 to 100 centimetres (6 to 40 inches) long. They have well-developed eyes, one or two dorsal fins, a tail fin, a single nostril on top of the head, and seven gill openings on each side of the body. Like the hagfishes, they lack bones, jaws, and paired fins. The skeleton of a lamprey consists of cartilage; the mouth is a round, sucking aperture provided with horny teeth.Lampreys begin life as burrowing, freshwater larvae (ammocoetes). At this stage, they are toothless, have rudimentary eyes, and feed on microorganisms. After several years, they transform into adults and typically move into the sea to begin a parasitic life, attaching to a fish by their mouths and feeding on the blood and tissues of the host. To reproduce, lampreys return to freshwater, build a nest, then spawn (lay their eggs) and die.Not all lampreys spend time in the sea. Some are landlocked and remain in freshwater. A notable example is the landlocked race Petromyzon marinus of the sea lamprey. This form entered the Great Lakes of North America and, because of its parasitic habits, had a disastrous killing influence on lake trout and other commercially valuable fishes before control measures were devised. Other lampreys, such as the brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri), also spend their entire lives in freshwater. They are nonparasitic, however, and do not feed after becoming adults; instead they reproduce and die.Lampreys have long been used to some extent as food. They are, however, of no great economic value to humans.
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