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Sea lamprey


up to 120 centimeter


up to 2.5 kilograms


gray-green with brown spots and a white belly


up to 9 years


larva: small particles in the water
adults: blood, skin and other tissue of marine animals (particularly cod, salmon, mackerel and sharks)


Female lays more than 100,000 eggs. After spawning, both males and females die.

  • Dut: Zeeprik (bonte negenoog, moederprik, petnegenoger, zeelamprei)
  • Lat: Petromyzon marinus
  • Eng: (Sea) lamprey
  • Ger: Meerneunauge
  • Fren: Lamproie marine
  • Dan: (Hav)lampret
Sea lamprey, Ecomare

Sea lamprey

Just like other lampreys, sea lampreys have a monstrous suction mouth with rows of small grating teeth. Using these teeth, they clamp onto large fish to suck their blood. This is necessary for survival. They attach themselves so tightly that the victims are not usually able to shake them off, despite the suffering they incur from these parasitic fish. The wounds made by the lampreys can cause death in the victims. Sea lampreys are born in fresh water. They live in the mud as larva for several years. Only after maturing do they move to the sea, only returning to the river to lay eggs.

  • A bite of sea lamprey
    Sea lamprey, Ecomare

    Sea lampreys appear to be a delicatessen. There was once an English king who died because he had eaten too much lamprey pie.

  • Strangling sex

    Sea lampreys don't have a very romantic sex life. Males make a bare sandy hollow in a river which serves as a nest. When a female passes by, he grabs her by the neck with his toothy suction mouth. Then he wraps himself around her and 'squeezes' her until she lays tens of thousands of eggs. He then fertilizes the eggs with his sperm. Both animals die after this hardly gentle encounter.

  • Distribution and habitat

    The sea lamprey swims in the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal waters of Europe and North America. It only uses Dutch rivers when migrating to Germany. It does not lay its eggs in the Netherlands.

    Sea lampreys are born in fresh water, where they live in the mud as blind and toothless larvae for several years. Only after turning adult do they migrate to the sea. Therefore, it is important that their migration route back and forth is not blocked by dikes and sluices.