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European Medicinal Leech Facts

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TAXONOMY

Hirudo medicinalis Linnaeus, 1758.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Sangsue médicinale; German: Medizinische Blutegel; Italian: Sanguisuga; Spanish: Sanguijuela medicinal; Swedish: Medicinsk blodigel.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Intricate purple and inexperienced patterning on dorsum (higher floor), yellow medial strains, and tan venter (stomach). Commonly grows up to 3.9 in (10 cm) or extra in size and 0.39 in (1 cm) extensive. Parabolic arc of 10 cephalic eyes organized in 5 pairs. Three jaws in pharynx with tremendous denticles (small toothlike constructions).

DISTRIBUTION

British Isles, southern Scandinavia, continental Europe eastward to the Urals and to western Turkey. Distribution may be very irregular and patchy as of 2003.

HABITAT

Found in naturally occurring freshwater lakes, ponds, streams, and marshes. Usually rests at air/water interface close to shore.

BEHAVIOR

An glorious and agile swimmer, this leech can detect and transfer towards disturbances within the water from a distance of some yards. Vertical wavelike motions and use of the caudal sucker present ahead motion and thrust. Applies damaging stress to surfaces with its oral and caudal suckers for suction and attachment functions.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds principally on the blood of amphibians and fishes; often feeds on mammals. Creates a three-part incision with its jaws and makes use of damaging stress of pharynx to draw out the upwelling blood. Can ingest portions of blood a number of occasions better than its unfed physique weight. Can retailer blood in crop (enlarged space on the base of the esophagus) for months.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Mating takes place by means of gonopore-to-gonopore copulation involving an eversible penis and vaginal pouch. The eggs are laid in clitellar secretions surrounding the physique, that are then slipped over the pinnacle to type a protecting egg case or cocoon. Cocoons with roughly 10 eggs every are deposited on land close to the sting of a physique of water. Development is direct.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Overexploited; has seen its pure habitat turn out to be fragmented and extremely restricted. Listed as Lower Risk/Near Threatened by the IUCN; additionally listed in CITES Appendix II.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Used medicinally for the aim of phlebotomy (drawing blood) for millennia, and popularized for this use within the nineteenth century. Most historic makes use of are of doubtful utility. Current use in microsurgery to scale back postoperative hematomas is sort of reputable and efficient. Commercially out there for medical functions. Several anticoagulants, such because the antithrombin compound hirudin, have been extracted from salivary tissues and have biomedical/pharmacological use. Occasionally featured in movement footage.

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