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Fish # 02 European River Lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis ~ Jonathan Downes
This is a one of the world's most primitive vertebrates, celebrated in legend, and possibly in fact, as the cause of King John's demise as they were a famous medieval delicacy - only he ate one too many of them. And it still has commercial value. It's known by a number of common names local to various parts of the British Isles including the juneba, lampern, nine-eyed eel and stone-grig - the last probably deriving from the Family Petromyzonide - 'stone suckers'. In contrast to true fish the lamprey has no lower jaw - instead its mouth is surrounded by a sucker like disk within which are rows of strong rasping teeth (see the artwork) - the major aid to identifying each of the three UK species. Fossils can be found from the late Silurian and Devonian periods - 450 million years ago. The River Lamprey is a migratory species that grows to maturity in estuaries and moves into fresh water to spawn, dying soon after. Adolescents feed on fish causing extensive damage to fish stocks. The UK population has been in general decline - pollution eliminated the River Lamprey from the Clyde and Thames. Silt beds are vital habitats for the larvae. Thus water abstraction and drainage can also threaten the river lamprey's survival. But populations are mostly now stable or increasing and the species is 'of least concern' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. SM.
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*Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941