Blood-sucking “dinosaur” with swirling teeth spotted for the first time in 20 years

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A blood-sucking “living dinosaur” with a mouth filled with swirling teeth was first spotted after a 20-year search.

Sean Blocksidge, a tour guide in Margaret River, Australia, heard local legends about the migration of lampreys to local waterfalls.

He said no one had seen one for a decade.

Lampreys, a jawless eel-like creature, evolved millions of years ago and have a reputation for drinking the blood of their prey – with a genus even dubbed the vampire fish.

Sean, 49, said: “It was like looking for a yeti or the Loch Ness monster.”

After 20 years of searching, he found six at a time.

Sean Blocksidge spent 20 years searching for lampreys
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Picture:

Credit: Pen News / Sean Blocksidge)


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He said: “It was kind of a surreal moment. I had heard so many stories from the ancients about how lampreys migrated by the thousands to the waterfalls.

“But we haven’t seen them in our Margaret River network for over a decade.

“I’m on the river everyday on a canoe trip and always hope to spot one, but it was my lucky day.

“Yeah, I’m a little excited – and also excited to know that they’re still here.”

The mouth of a lamprey is full of swirling teeth
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Picture:

Credit: Pen News / Sean Connolly)


Sean found them at Yalgardup ​​Falls, where he and his tour groups stop to reflect on Indigenous and European history.

He said: “I looked into the water and it looked like a long blue tube sitting in the shallows.

“It seemed a bit strange because we don’t really have any trash in the river.

“I went down to take a closer look to find another half-dozen ‘hits’ trying to make their way to the waterfall.

Sean compared the search for a lamprey to the search for a yeti
(

Picture:

Credit: Pen News / Sean Blocksidge)


“It turned out to be the elusive pocket lamprey that I had been trying to find for 20 years!”

He added: “The tour group was thrilled. They quickly realized the importance of seeing them once we explained how rare they were.

The pocket lamprey spends its first 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.

Lamprey is considered endangered
(

Picture:

Credit: Pen News / Sean Blocksidge)


Sean said: “They look a bit like an eel. They have a hideous dinosaur-like mouth filled with gripping teeth.

“But overall, they are very beautiful creatures with iridescent blue eyes, fairly obvious gills and a powerful, long body.”

Lampreys risk being threatened due to climate change and the increasing salinity of the waters where they breed, Australia’s national broadcaster ABC reported last year.

Sean said: “They are living dinosaurs and have been around for over 200 million years, but they have real issues with climate change.

“Our river system has dried up by more than 20% over the past two decades and that would affect their people.

“It is interesting that the winter has been very wet this year and the lampreys obviously knew it was a good year to migrate back into the system.”

Sean added: “Things are slowly deteriorating, but it is happening on such a slow human scale that people are getting used to the new normal and not fully appreciating the long term consequences.

“Imagine if these species were to become extinct in our lifetime – hundreds of millions of years of existence and they have the potential to become extinct under our watch. “

Stephen Beatty, senior researcher at Murdoch University in Perth, praised Sean for raising awareness of the unusual creature.

He told ABC: “It’s great that he has raised awareness of this rather unique animal more.

“In terms of evolutionary importance, this is a pretty amazing animal and we are really lucky to have one of the species that moves up our rivers in the southwest.”


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