Medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis officinalis

Medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis officinalis

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Credit: MARTIN DOHRN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Medicinal leech. Medicinal leech, Hirudo medicin- alis officinalis, in a contracted state on sphagnum moss. This species of leech is a parasite which feeds on blood, although it only remains attached to the host during the feeding. The leech cuts through the skin with three jaw plates. Their saliva contains hirudin, a chemical which prevents blood from clotting whilst they feed and for some hours afterwards. A leech will drink 10- 15 millilitres of blood; another 20-50 ml will drip from the wound after the leech has dropped off. A large meal will leave the leech bloated, providing it with enough food to live for six months or more.

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Keywords: animal, blood sucker, hirudinea, hirudo medicinalis officinalis, invertebrate, invertebrates, leech, medicinal, nature, wildlife, zoology

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