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article imagePhotos: Monster sea lamprey draws 1.2 million views on Reddit

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 27, 2013 in Environment
A New Jersey man Doug Cutler, caught a sea lamprey recently. The photo of the creature has gone viral on Reddit with 1.2 million astonished Redditors gawking over the monster spotting an oral cavity filled with fearsome-looking teeth-like structures.
Redditor Jlitch who identifed the fisherman as Doug Cutler, posted the photo to Reddit under the caption: "Friend also caught this fishing in NJ."
The Huffington Post reports the eel-like creature was caught in the Raritan Rivers in northern New Jersey.
NY Daily News reports that while questions have been raised about the identity of the creature, scientists at Outside Online think it is a very large sea lamprey.
An intimidating ring of "teeth" gives the animal sinister alien-like looks. According to The Huffington Post, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says a sea lamprey can be expected to kill upwards of 40 pounds of fish over the course of its life. The teeth-like structures helps the animal hold on to its prey while digestive juices work on it.
Monster lamprey goes viral on Reddit
Monster lamprey goes viral on Reddit
Reddit/jlitch
NY Daily News reports that a New York Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman told Outside Online: "The photo doesn't allow counting of gill openings (seven per side for sea lampreys), but based on size alone, this does appear to be a sea lamprey."
Lamprey
Lamprey
Facebook/Doug Cutler
Sea lampreys are native to the Atlantic Ocean. They are found along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Europe. They are considered an invasive species in the Great Lakes.
The Daily Mail correctly points out that viewers get an exaggerated impression of the size of the animal from the first photo. As the Daily Mail observes, the photographer snapped the photo very up close making it look bigger than it really is. The species typically grows to 2.5 feet in length, but the specimen above could be as long as 3 feet judging from the third photo below.
Lamprey
Lamprey
Facebook/Doug Cutler
Some Redditors have likewise commented
IamA_Werewolf_AMA: It's also worth noting that it's by far the biggest one I have ever seen, it's enormous.
Edit: To everyone telling me about perspective, I know, I'm comparing it's size to the pole protruding from the open wound and it's still very large for a lamprey. You usually only see them about an inch to an inch and a half across. This guy's probably a good three inches in diameter.
EbranLoL: It's a lot closer to the camera than the hand holding it. I doubt the person could hold an animal that big on the end of a harpoon(?) with one hand. Based on the shaft, that lamprey is slightly more than an inch thick.
Another Redditor "nvto" takes us on a fascinating historical tour that tells us that the lamprey's teeth are as fearsome as they look:
Publius Vedius Pollio (died 15 BC) was a Roman equestrian of the 1st century BC, and a friend of the Roman emperor Augustus, who appointed him to a position of authority in the province of Asia. In later life he became known for his luxurious tastes and cruelty to his slaves – when they displeased him, he had them fed to lampreys that he maintained for that purpose... [This was deemed to be unacceptable cruelty, even by Roman standards. When Vedius tried to apply this method of execution to a slave who broke a crystal cup, Emperor Augustus (Pollio's guest at the time) was so appalled that he not only intervened to prevent the execution but had all of Pollio's valuable drinking vessels deliberately broken.]
...he[Pollio] kept a pool of lampreys into which slaves who incurred his displeasure would be thrown as food[10] – a particularly unpleasant means of death, since the lamprey "clamps its mouth on the victim and bores a dentated tongue into the flesh to ingest blood".[11]
On one occasion, Augustus was dining at Vedius' home when a cup-bearer broke a crystal glass. Vedius ordered him thrown to the lampreys, but the slave fell to his knees before Augustus and pleaded to be executed in some more humane way. Horrified, the emperor had all of Vedius's expensive glasses smashed and the pool filled in. According to Seneca, Augustus also had the slave freed; Dio merely remarks that Vedius "could not punish his servant for what Augustus also had done".
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