Aquatic Species - Details for Sea Lamprey

Sea Lamprey

Latin Name
Petromyzon marinus

Taxonomy details

Group Name



Sea lampreys are native to the Atlantic Ocean, are found along the North American coast from Newfoundland and Labrador to Florida, and also inhabit the eastern North Atlantic and the Baltic, Adriatic, and Mediterranean seas. Sea lampreys live in marine environments but spawn in freshwater rivers and streams. However, in Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, and the Great Lakes, they live their entire lives in freshwater. First documented in Lake Ontario in 1835, by 1921 sea lampreys had entered Lake Erie through the Welland Canal, and were established in all five Great Lakes by 1938. They inflicted catastrophic damage to native lake trout and whitefish stocks in lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. Since 1956, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has administered a bi-national sea lamprey control program with DFO as the Canadian agent.

Species Description

Sea lampreys resemble eels in shape, but lack paired fins and jaws, and have a cartilaginous, rather than bony, skeleton. They attach to fish using a sucker mouth lined with teeth, rasp away scales and skin with their tongue, and feed on blood and body fluids of their prey. The maximum length and weight of sea lampreys in marine environments is 120 cm and 2.5 kg, respectively, but land-locked individuals rarely exceed 64 cm and 0.6 kg.

Search related information