Talk about a hard sell: Sucking your blood improves the ecology? Well, here we are at the Smithsonian, and …
In a sprawling gallery of the Royal Ontario Museum, curators and technicians crowded around two large coolers that had recently arrived at the Toronto institution. Wriggling inside the containers were live sea lampreys, eel-like creatures that feed by clamping onto the bodies of other fish, puncturing through their skin with tooth-lined tongues, and sucking out their victims’ blood and bodily fluids. Staff members, their hands protected with gloves, carefully lifted one of the lampreys and plopped it into a tall tank. It slithered through the water, tapping on the glass walls with its gaping mouth, rings of fearsome teeth on full view.Brigit Katz, “Why the World Needs Bloodsucking Creatures” at Smithsonian.com
If you have succeeded in suppressing the urge to just run out and kill ‘em all, consider:
“Bloodsuckers” opens in a corridor bathed in red light, where an installation featuring three strands of red blood cells dangles from the ceiling. Blood is a hugely abundant food source, so it makes sense that wherever vertebrates exist, animals would arise to steal their life-sustaining fluids. Blood-feeding likely evolved repeatedly over the course of our planet’s history—“perhaps as many as 100 times,” according to Kvist. Bloodsucking creatures have no common ancestor, as the behavior has cropped up independently in birds, bats, insects, fish and other animal groups—a testament to its evolutionary value.
“I can think of no other system that’s [so] intricate that has evolved separately,” Kvist says. “And it makes blood-feeding as a behavior even more beautiful.” … Brigit Katz, “Why the World Needs Bloodsucking Creatures” at Smithsonian.com
We would have to be really committed to the ecology to see bloodsucking as beautiful but hey anyway, here’s the Royal Ontario Museum exhibit.
See also: Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible? So much intricacy one hundred times, with no underlying design?
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