Raising awareness of Lampreys

The Lamprey Watch project seeks to help conserve and protect the UK’s lamprey species and we need your help!

We need your records of lampreys

We wish to encourage anyone with access to suitable rivers to look out for lampreys during the spawning season and submit observation records. We would like outdoors enthusiasts and other river users to locate suitable stretches of habitat and spend a little time watching for these fascinating creatures.

View recorded data

What is a lamprey?

Lampreys are a type of primitive fish.  Although superficially similar in appearance to eels they are not closely related and have quite different, although equally fascinating, life histories.  

There are 3 species of lamprey in the UK (see our ID guide here):

– Brook Lamprey

– River Lamprey

– Sea Lamprey

Lampreys are jawless fish, having instead a sucker-like mouth which they use to attach to hosts (most are parasitic in their adult stage and feed on other fish species – even sharks in the case of sea lampreys) and to help them anchor to the bottom of fast flowing rivers.  Although they all spawn in fresh water two of our species (the river and sea lamprey) migrate back to estuaries and the open sea as adults to feed and reach sexual maturity.

Fossil remains suggest that lampreys have changed little over the last 300 million years making them a true living fossil.  We hope they’ll be around for at least another 300 million years and by sending us your records we can build up a better picture or where they are and find out crucial information such as what might be preventing them from reaching their spawning grounds.

See the data

How to spot a lamprey

The easiest way to spot lampreys is to check out suitable nesting habitat during the spawning season. Our largest species, the sea lamprey, is also our most conspicuous and can be spotted when spawning from bridges and bank sides.  They excavate nest sites (sometimes called “redds”) using their mouths and strong bodies to shift rocks and pebbles to create a hollow.  Our two smaller species are more tricky to find but our lamprey guide will help you learn the best time and places to look for lampreys, how to distinguish the different species, and what information to record.  Happy lamprey hunting!!

Lamprey guide

27 May 2016

Hitting the headlines again

For anyone wanting a good overview of lampreys and their ecology the Guardian ran this article in ...

By Dave Kilbey

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