Beijing time on December 11, according tomedia reports, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada recently received two huge freezers, which hovered around several living seven eels. The creature, which resembles an eel, can pierce the skin of other fish with its teeth and then suck up the blood and body fluids of its prey.
Pictured is the large mouth of a blood plate with teeth on the teeth of the seven eels. This blood-sucking creature has lived on Earth for hundreds of millions of years.
The staff put on thick gloves, carefully fished out a seven-eel, threw it into a tall pool, only to see the seven eels from the water, with its blood basin mouth beat the glass pool wall, a mouth of gruesome teeth suddenly at a glance.
After exploring a new environment, the seven-legged eel stopped on a pile of pebbles at the bottom of the pool and began to rest. It will be on display in the museum until March next year, and all the creatures on display during the same period have one thing in common: they will bite through, pierce or cut through the flesh of their prey to get their favorite food: blood.
The exhibition, called the Blood-Sucking Creatures Show, will feature live organisms such as mosquitoes, ticks and otters, as well as specimens of dozens of species, in addition to the seven eels. There are about 30,000 blood-fed species around the world, such as blood-sucking sages that pierce the thick skin of buffaloes and elephants, blood-sucking snails that target sick and dying fish, insects such as lice on large mammals, and African oxen ostriches who suck blood from sores.
These animals may make many tourists shudder. But blood-sucking creatures are also a lovely species of all living things, the product of the subtle evolution of nature. Covester, the invertebrate curator at the Royal Ontario Museum and the exhibition’s curator, is particularly fond of otters, and his research focuses on the evolution of otter blood-sucking. Sometimes he even pampered the lab’s otters to suck his blood and let them “have a good meal”.
“These creatures that we look after deserve a certain amount of respect,” says Mr Covester. “
Otters still have important medical effects today, including a wide range of alternative therapies and surgical uses approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The show’s exhibition hall is a corridor bathed in red lights, with three strings of “red blood cells” hanging from the corridor. Blood is an extremely abundant source of food, so where vertebrates exist, other animals try to suck their blood. This blood-eating behavior has evolved many times in Earth’s history, perhaps as many as 100 times, because birds, bats, insects, fish and other animal species have each independently demonstrated its evolutionary value.
However, a highly blood-dependent diet is difficult to maintain, and there are relatively few species of organisms that ultimately retain this ability. There are as many species as many as 15.6 million species in the world, compared with about 30,000 of the blood-sucking organisms, which can be said to be very few. Studies have shown that eating blood can actually put a lot of stress on the physiology, shape and behavior of living things.
For example, vitamin B is generally lacking in the blood, but all animals need to rely on the substance to convert food into energy. As a result, many blood-sucking organisms have bacteria that can synthesize vitamin B. Furthermore, the blood is rich in iron, and if you consume too much, most animals will be poisoned. But creatures that have developed a blood-sucking habit have evolved a way to break down iron.
In addition, it is not easy to suck blood into an animal. To this end, blood-sucking organisms have evolved a variety of methods. Mosquitoes, for example, can pierce their skin with long, pointed mouthpieces, while some flies can cut skin with jagged jaws. But these methods are all at risk of being patted off by the host. Therefore, the saliva of blood-sucking organisms such as otters contains substances with a slight anaesthetic effect, which is not easily detected by the host when sucking blood. Specific organisms such as blood-sucking bats, seven eels and otters also secrete anticoagulants, allowing blood to remain flowing during and even after blood sucking.
Otters can consume up to five or even ten times their own weight of blood, and if they clot or clump in their bodies, they sink like bricks to the bottom of the water.
Doug Currie, senior curator of entomology at the Royal Ontario Museum, hopes the exhibition will help visitors better experience the beauty of blood-sucking creatures. For a long time, there has been a complex relationship between humans and these creatures. For example, otters, once used as a life-saving means, still suck blood after surgery and by doctors in the blood-filled area of the patient’s body. But at the same time, from the folklore of these creatures around the world, we are instinctively disturbed by blood-sucking creatures.
Pictured is an ostrich, which feeds on the blood of a large mammal.
The museum also features models of monsters, such as chupacabra, which is said to suck the blood of livestock, and the “yara-ma-yha-who” that is known in Australian folklore to suck blood through fingers and toes.
Experts point out that these monsters are not imitating real-life blood-sucking creatures, but rather symbolise our “innate fear of what takes away our vitality.”
Vampire Dracula is probably one of the most famous blood-sucking people of all fantasy works. Its connection to nature seems to be more tangible than that of other monsters. The vampire legend has long been around, but Bram Stoker first described it as a creature that could be transformed into a bat in his 1897 novel Dracula. Blood-sucking bats are mainly found in Mexico, Central and South America and feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Its description dates back to 1810, and Darwin first recorded it in 1839. The supernatural forces of Stoke’s writing may have been influenced by this animal.
Vampires in popular culture today have a variety of images, some cold, some sexy, some stupid. We can make fun of them because we know vampires don’t exist. But in the early 18th century, when the vampire legend first emerged in Eastern Europe, people were genuinely afraid of it. Abdominal bulge, oral bleeding and other phenomena are in fact the normal characteristics of the body, but people at that time did not understand these, but as the body climbed out of the grave, smoking human blood evidence.
However, people are afraid of being sucked out of the blood by vampires, while also hot for blood-letting therapy. The therapy dates back to ancient times, when the ancients believed that bleeding helped balance blood, mucus, yellow bile and black bile. Blood-letting therapy reached its peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and a “water fever” swept through Europe and the United States. Dispensaries store otters in ornate jars, and Europe’s Hirudo molyble has been on the brink of extinction.
Pictured is a 19th-century “water tank.” At that time, the pharmacy stored the otters in such jars and displayed them in the window.
There are other ways to blood-letting therapy than water otters. The exhibition also features a series of chilling blood-letting tools: blood-letting knives: multiple blades are exposed with a single push to cut through the skin; a glass: heated and absorbed on the skin surface to suck blood to the surface of the skin; and a salt-sniffing: to prevent a patient from fainting due to excessive bleeding.
Today’s medical experts no longer believe that otters can cure a hundred diseases, but otters still have important medical value. For example, scientists in the lab synthesized the anticoagulant “hirudin” in the saliva of otters, a pill or ointment containing the ingredient that can be used to treat deep vein thrombosis and prevent stroke. Otters themselves are also used in hospitals. After skin grafts, broken fingers and other end tissue stitching surgery, the newly stitched veins heal faster than the veins, so the blood entering the newly stitched tissue cannot flow back to the body, affecting wound healing. And if you put the otter on the wound, you can relieve the vein blood, thus promoting the wound recovery.
Earlier this year, Mr. Kvitt helped the Canadian Parks Authority solve a problem: a man was detained at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with nearly 4,800 live otters in his carry-on luggage. Kvitt found that some of the otters appeared to have been smuggled from Russia and belonged to the Hirudo verbana species. Such otters are threatened by over-capture and are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and are therefore not allowed to be transported without permission. The man’s true intentions were not clear, but he claimed to have been sold for the purpose of “New Age Medical.”
“A lot of people want to use otters to treat all kinds of diseases, and this underground network is much bigger than we think,” says Mr Covester. “The Royal Ontario Museum has collected about 300 smuggled otters, dozens of which are on display at the Blood-Sucking Creatures Exhibition.
A tourist is looking at a specimen of a blood-sucking creature.
Although otters have important medical value, some blood-sucking organisms are notorious for their ability to spread serious diseases. For example, certain types of mosquitoes can transmit West Nile disease, Zika virus and malaria. Lice can spread Lyme disease. The exhibition does not shy away from the dangers of these organisms, and offers many advice on preventing infection.
However, most blood-sucking animals do not pose a serious threat to humans. In fact, these creatures are vital to the overall health of the planet. Mosquitoes, for example, are an important food source for birds. Creatures such as otters and seven eels can provide essential nutrients for water bodies. And, like other species, blood-sucking organisms make a significant contribution to the planet’s biodiversity. Biodiversity is declining rapidly due to factors such as pollution, climate change and habitat degradation.
From a biodiversity perspective, many animals need protection, and by holding the exhibition, it is hoped that visitors will be less comfortable in the blood-sucking creatures , even if they are unwilling to stretch out their arms to give the otters a good meal.