Taxonomic name: Petromyzon marinus Linnaeus 1758
Synonyms: Ammocoetes bicolor, Batymyzon bairdii, Lampetra marina, Oceanomyzon wilsoni, Petromyzon adriaticus, Petromyzon americanus, Petromyzon bairdii, Petromyzon concolor, Petromyzon lampetra, Petromyzon maculosus, Petromyzon marinus dorsatus, Petromyzon marinus unicolor, Petromyzon maximus, Petromyzon nigricans, Petromyzon ruber
Common names: great sea lamprey (English), lake lamprey (English), lamprea de mar (Spanish), lamprey (English), lamprey eel (English), lamproie marine (French), sea lamprey (English)
Organism type: fish
Petromyzon marinus (sea lamprey) is an anadromous, eel-like fish that parasitically attaches and feeds on healthy fish. Petromyzon marinus is native to the east coast of the USA and the majority of the European coast but has been introduced to the Great Lakes through the canal system. Petromyzon marinus have contributed to the collapse of commercial fisheries and the extinction of three native species of cisco.
Eel-like jawless fish with cartilaginous skeleton. No scales and no paired fins. Gray-blue back, metallic violet on sides, shading to silver-white underneath, skin is often marbled. Length 12-20 inches, weight 8-13 ounces.
coastland, lakes, water courses
The larvae prefer soft sediment substrates in clear streams; parasitic phase is found in cool-water lakes.
Lampreys attack and are parasite feeders on other fish, often resulting in the death of the fish. Partially responsible for collapse of commercial fisheries in the Great Lakes during 1940s-1950s. Decline of large native fish including, several ciscoes Coregonus spp., lake trout Salvelinus namaycush, and walleye Stizostedion vitreum. Partially responsible for the extinctions of 3 native species to the Great Lakes, longjaw cisco Coregonus alpenae, deepwater cisco C. johannae, and blackfin cisco C. nigripinnis. Because lamprey predation had reduced the number of large predators, the introduction of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) in the 1940's resulted in an explosion of the alewife population with serious consequences on distributions and abundances of native fish. Lamprey also prey on introduced salmon that are valued by anglers in the Great Lakes.
Used for human food consumption as a delicacy in parts of Europe.
Native range: Native to the east coast of North America from Labrador to Gulf of Mexico, Northeast Atlantic coast from Norway, Iceland and the Barents Sea, to northern Africa. Western Mediterranean Sea, but absent from eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Known introduced range: Introduced to the upper four Great Lakes and tributaries in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Classification as an exotic species in Lake Ontario, Finger Lakes of New York, and Lake Champlain (Vermont and New York) is in debate.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Natural dispersal: Believed to have migrated through Erie Canal, Welland, and St. Lawrence canal systems.
Other: Larval lampreys used as bait in non-native areas.
Ship/boat hull fouling: May have attached to boats going through canal system.
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local):
On animals: Have travelled long distances while attached to other fish.
Larvae feed on microorganisms and detritus. The lake-phase feed parasitically on healthy fish including: ciscoes Coregonus spp., lake trout Salvelinus namaycush, walleye Stizostedion vitreum, white sucker Catostomus commersoni, longnose sucker Catostomus catostomus, redhorse Moxostoma spp., yellow perch Perca flavescens, rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, burbot Lota lota, channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, northern pike Esox lucius, and common carp Cyprinus carpio.
The sea lamprey spawn in freshwater rivers in running water. Fertilisation is external. Lampreys gather in small groups. Small and not yolky eggs are buried in spawning redds excavated in clean, hard bottoms (litophilous broodhiders). The parents die after spawning. Eggs laid are numerous (35,000 - 100,000).
Radical metamorphosis of ammocoete larvae in freshwater. After metamorphosis, lampreys migrate to sea or freshwater lakes.
Reviewed by: Dr. Ellen Marsden, University of Vermont. USA
Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Monday, 24 January 2005