By David Keane
A mum was left shocked to discover a ‘miniature prehistoric monster’ breeding in her GARDEN that turned out to be an ancient blood-sucking fish with a sucker full of razor teeth for a mouth
Rachel Kennedy had been clearing out a drain in the garden of her Brockton, Shrops, home when she discovered an ‘eel-like’ creature in the silt so she put it in a jam jar and took it to a neighbour for closer inspection.
The 46-year-old was told that the slippery creature, with a round mouth full of teeth, was a lamprey – one of the most primitive invertebrates alive today and that predates dinosaurs.
But Rachel was left stunned when her daughter then discovered a host of the creatures she believes to be laying eggs in the river Kemp that runs through her garden at the weekend.
Friend Andrew Fusek Peters rushed over with his camera and caught incredible footage of the lamprey writhing around underwater and one even turning to LOOK at him with its grotesque sucker mouth open wide.
Rachel said: “It’s like these miniature prehistoric monsters that you have found and you see the photos with their sucker mouths and you think oh my god, that’s living down there.
“They are really weird looking things. We had no idea that they were there after living here for 20 years and then here they are wriggling about in the mud.
“It’s weird to think that they have been living there beside us all this time. But you have to be very eagled eyed to see them.
“When we put it in the jam jar we thought it was an eel at first but then I saw its circular mouth, which looked very funny. I thought ‘what’s that?’.
“So I took it round to a neighbour of ours who knows a bit more about these sorts of things and he identified it as a lamprey.
“Then when my daughter and her boyfriend spotted more, there were around eight of them in the water. There could have been more that we couldn’t see too.
“It’s a nice shallow area so I presume they are laying eggs. They’ve been there for a couple of days now.
“It’s just amazing what’s lurking on your doorstep. We had no idea they were there. Apparently they like clean water though so that’s good to know.
“It’s very exciting. I love finding things like this, though I have never found anything quite like this before. I have seen the odd interesting fish but nothing like this.”
Andrew, 51, spent hours lay next to the river with his camera submerged in order to capture the lamprey, who are around 10cms long and thought to possibly be brook lampreys, in their underwater world.
Andrew, a neighbour of Rachel’s and a dad-of-two from Lydbury North, Shrops, said: “It’s an incredible thing to photograph really, it’s like something out of a horror movie.
“They are very unusual looking. I thought they were eels or something when I first saw them.
“It’s an ancient fish with no jaw and a sucker for a mouth and they are thought to be older than dinosaurs so to find them wriggling around in someone’s garden is pretty exciting.
“To film them like this in their underwater habitat, where I suspect they were getting ready to lay their eggs in pits in the shallow water, felt very special. I don’t think many people will ever have been fortunate to get so close to them.
“I was only inches away from them in the water and had to stay perfectly still so as not to disturb them. But they never noticed me and as you can see in the footage they just carried on with what they were doing.”
Rachel said: “It’s even more exciting that Andrew’s photos were able to show them in their underwater world. They are incredible, I can’t believe he managed to get them.
“Apparently they live in the mud and the silt, feeding on detritus. They spend five or six years in the mud and then come out to breed and then die quite quickly after reproducing. It’s all a bit of a mad dash for them at the end and I think that’s what we’ve spotted them doing in the water.
“It’s great to see this kind of wildlife in the area. I run self-catering holiday homes in the area and it just goes to show how wonderful the area is. It’s a very special area with lots out there to find.”
Lampreys, often described as ‘living fossils’ after evolving around 200million years before dinosaurs, became scarce in many UK rivers due to pollution over the last 200 years.
However they were once a medieval delicacy and King Henry I of England is even believed to have died after eating too many of the unusual-looking fish.