By Reuben Bryan
 Related to worms- invertibrates
 Can’t asexually reproduce, unlike most members of
their phylum
 Segmented with “brains” which are just clumped up
nerves called Ganglia. Essentially they have 32 brains,
one for each segment
 Subclass Hirudinea
2 Types
 With/ without jaws - Arhynchobdellida and
 Proboscis in jawless, sometimes teeth in jawed
 Most eat decomposing material
 Jawed leeches also eat worms snake style
 2 suckers, one on each end, thinner end is the mouth
 Light sensitive cells all over their body, some have as
many as 16 eyes, some have none
 Blood up to 5 times their body weight can be stored in
their crop, where it is digested by bacteria
 Terrestrial, Marine, Freshwater
 Terrestrial leeches include the predatory leeches and
some bloodsucking ones, as well as the benign
 Marine leeches have proboscis and feed on fish
 Freshwater are the ones that we are familiar with –
include the jawed parasites, proboscis, and benign
 In water: dolphin style
 On land: inchworm style, or vermiform
 On land: highly sensitive to scent, movement,
vibrations, ect.
 In water: shark sense (Blood sense, ect.), vibrations,
movement ect.
Feeding habits - Predatory
 Snakelike feeding habits – swallow prey whole
 They eat earthworms, larvae, snails, and other
 Lack teeth
KinaBalu Giant Red Leech–
Feeds on worms, located only
on Mount Kinabalu, grows up
to 30 cm
Feeding habits – Parasitic - Jawed
 Suction on and inject an anesthetic to numb the area,
then bite with their three jaws and suck out the blood
 They feed off of any animal they latch onto, although
some of them feed only on fish, or only on amphibians
or reptiles or mammals or birds
 Three jaws, each with approximately 100 teeth
Chainstrap Leech
Feeding habits – Parasitic - Jawless
 They have a proboscis, which they insert into the host
to suck blood
 Mainly feed off of fish
 Most common in the ocean
Feeding habits - Benign
 Feed off of dead or decaying material
 Cannot bite
Properties of saliva
 Anticoagulant: prevents blood from clotting resulting
 Excessive bleeding for up to 5 hours after a bite
 Blood inside a leech not going bad, and is thus able to
sustain the leech for up to a year, though they usually
feed twice a year
 Digestive tract: Blood is stored in the crop, then goes
through the intestines where the nutrients is absorbed
 Symbiotic relationship to the bacteria Areomonas
Hydrophila – Bacteria secretes an antiboitic the prevents
any other bacteria from growing inside the leech, causing
the blood to putrefy slower. Also secretes enzymes that play
a major role in the leeches digestion
 Because they are cold blooded, or ectotherms, before
feeding, leeches hang out in cold places in the water, while
afterwards the leeches hang out in the warm places
Medicinal uses
 Used to save limbs that would otherwise have been lost
to clotting and, thus, gangrene
 In Europe leeches saved the ear of a boy that had been
bitten off by a dog
 DO NOT BURN/ SALT OFF: doing so causes the leech
not only to disengage, but to regurgitate the contents
of its stomach back into the wound, which is bad
 Safe way: break suction with fingernail, causing leech
to disengage, flick away
 Not much: leeches carry parasites sometimes, but they
cannot survive inside humans and die
 Only danger: If the leech fed on someone with a fluid
related disease such as HIV/AIDS or the like around 20
hours earlier
 Too many leeches could remove too much blood
 Largest leech was 18 inches with a six inch proboscis:
named Grandma Moses, species: Giant Amazon Leech
 Smallest leeches are only around 5mm
 The word “Leech” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word
“Loece”, meaning “To Heal”
Medieval doctors called themselves Leeches
Used to draw blood from hard to reach places, such as the
gums, nose, or fingers
Became extremely popular in the 19th century; in 1833 alone
14,500,000 leeches were imported to France
The medicinal Leech “Hirudo Medicinals” is now
endangered as a result
Leeches were first used around 1000 B.C., most likely in
More History
 In 1799, soldiers marching in Egypt from the Sinai
Peninsula to Syria drank any water that they could find,
and the tiny leeches in the water attatched themselves to
the insides of their throats, causing many to die of blood
loss or closed off airways from the swollen leeches
 Barbers got their red stripped poles from leeches, which
they used to do surgery on their patients. The bloody cloths
were then hung on the poles
 In 1985, microsurgeons in a Boston hospital used leeches to
save the ear of a 5 year old boy that had been bitten off by a
Fun Facts
 Leeches can bite through a hippo’s hide, while some
firearms cannot
The nervous system of a Leech is very similar to a human
There are almost 700 species of leech, although there are
more than double that number expected
Leeches lay their eggs in a cocoon, and the amazon leech
keeps them on its belly
Leeches Drink up to five times its body weight
Jawless leeches cannot swim, despite being located in the
Leeches make wonderful pets, and are extremely low
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