Jul 1, 2009

Parasitic Harbinger of Good News

It's often all a matter of perspective and context. If I were taking a pleasure stroll along one of my favorite waterways and stumbled across a dead eel thing with a gnarly set of teeth, my day would be ruined. But such was not the case for a volunteer cleanup crew working on the shores of the Thames River.

What Oscar Bridge discovered turns out to be a recently deceased sea lamprey, a parasitic fish that predates the dinosaurs. The fact that it was dead was of no concern, since these fish die after they spawn. That it was found in the Thames is considered to be fantastic news (unless you're a sea lamprey host).

Not long ago the Thames was so polluted that it was considered to be "biologically extinct." But thanks to a variety of efforts, it is now considered to be one of the cleanest city rivers in Europe. Ergo, the return of a sea lamprey to these waters is a very good sign. After all, lampreys are picky spawners: they only enter water they consider to be clean. Picky, picky.

These parasites were once considered to be delicacies (of course). In fact, King Henry I is reputed to have died from eating too many of these. I think one would be enough to do me in.

Thanks for the link, anonymous.

Photos via BBC News


Anonymous said...

Ah! Pedantically speaking, it's actually a "surfeit of lampreys". "Too many" is certainly correct by modern usage (actually he probably died because he had them brought to him some distance and one or more had gone off by the time ate them), but, really, how often do you get to use the word "surfeit", and, well, lampreys and surfeits just go together.


That being said, I'm glad to hear that the Thames is now clean enough to once again host lampreys! Perhaps soon there will even be a surfeit of them! Hooray for surfeits!

(Yes. I am a fan of archaic language, and of history, as well as of this fine an educational blog.)

Garfman said...

Neat, but where I'm from (near-ish Lake Erie), those are invasive. Maybe a Lamprey Exchange Program for the future?

Raging Wombat said...

I like the idea of an exchange program. Maybe trade a surfeit for a dearth. End up with a leveling.

How about it Department of Fish and Game and Homeland Security?

Peter Madsen said...

Not only King Henry I dined on these suckers, kings and queens have for a long period in england been granted the first catches of the year of the lampreys.
The most common dish would have been lamprey pie.
Heres how to make it:

To make a Lamprey Pie
Take your Lamprey and gut him, and take away the black string in the back, wash him very well, and dry him, and season him with Nutmeg, Pepper and Salt, then lay him into your Pie in pieces with Butter in the bottom, and some Shelots and Bay Leaves and more Butter, so close it and bake it, and fill it up with melted Butter, and keep it cold, and serve it in with some Mustard and Sugar.

Anonymous said...

Mustard, sugar, and Lampreys.
All baked in a pie.

No wonder King H. I died.

Unknown said...

Where, oh where would one get such a recipe??? Sounds perfectly awful!! I am glad to hear that the Thames has been cleaned up. Lake Erie was once in the same boat, being so dirty that it was a health hazard in some areas. It has since been cleaned up by the zebra mussels that have invaded the lake. The zebra mussels are cleaning the lake with their water filtering process, but at the same time they dine on the eggs of other fish, so we are losing large native fish populations. What is the answer to a clean lake and large fish populations? No one knows!!!