Ew.. really disgusting!
That's the expression of some people when they see or bitten by leeches. Have you ever been bitten by a leech?
Leeches (Hirudinae) are well-known to anyone who visits the rainforest in North Sumatra as they attach themselves to peoples' legs and suck blood. There are species of leeches that live on land, in rivers and lakes, and even in the sea.
Most leeches are hematophagous, which means they feed on blood from other animals. Like the common earthworm, leeches are hermaphrodites, meaning that a single leech is both a male and a female at the same time, but they do still mate with another leech to reproduce.
In Indonesia, locals distinguish between 'pacet' which are leeches that live on the land and 'lintah' which live in the water. To taxonomists the land leeches belong to the family Haemadipsidae and aquatic leeches to the family Hirudidae.
All leeches are carnivorous which means they eat meat or other parts of animals. When a leech bites someone it can be hard to get them off as their jaws attach firmly to the skin and if pulled hard enough, the mouth may actually be pulled off, and stay attached to the skin causing infection.
However, normally they can be carefully removed by hand and they also drop off voluntarily once they are full. When they do come off the wound normally continues to bleed for some time. This because the leeches' saliva contains an enzyme, called Hirudin, that prevents blood from clotting.
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Photos by Daniel Petrasinovic
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