OMG: Monster leech swallows giant worm

September 26, 2014 • 2:06 pm

Reader “pyers” called my attention to a Torygraph article about an upcoming BBC documentary, “Wonders of the monsoon,” that is a must-watch. But the Torygraph piece has a title more suited to the Daily Mirror, to wit (click on the headline to go to the article):

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 2.12.27 PM

Indeed, that’s just what happens, and for those of you who like nature red in tooth and claw, by all means read the piece and then watch the movie at the bottom of the article. You can also go directly to the BBC clip (which also plays in the US) by clicking the screenshot of the carnage just below:

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 2.11.37 PM

From the Torygraph:

It resembles a monster from a b-list horror film but deep in the forests of Borneo this giant leech really exists and is a deadly predator.

The creature is so new to science that it does not yet have a taxonomic name. It is known to the tribes of Mount Kinabalu as the ‘Giant Red Leech.’

It was filmed for the first time by BBC filmmakers for the new series ‘Wonders of the Monsoon.’

The Giant Red Leech is one of the biggest in the world. The specimen captured on camera was around 30cm long but experts believe they could grow larger.

They have grown so big that they no longer simply suck blood but now actively hunt giant blue worms and suck them down like spaghetti. The worm it is eating is a whopping 78cm.

That’s about 31 inches to you non-metrics—more than twice the length of the leech. How does the leech find room?

Finding the species on Mount Kinabalu, the biggest mountain in Borneo, was a huge challenge and the team worked with ecologist Alim Bium to locate the leech.

“If you want to film a predator the best thing to do is to find its prey” said Williams, but it took the team several weeks of searching before an extremely heavy rainstorm eventually brought worms out in huge numbers. The red leeches were not far behind.

“By working with Alim we were able to sufficiently light the area of forest to record the predation as it unfolded” said Paul.

“It was exciting and fascinating, as he was making his new scientific discovery, we were documenting the behaviour for the very first time”

That last quote is the kind of thing that gives biologists a bad reputation!

There’s a lot more in the article about the show, including filming a colony of 300,000 flying foxes.  Be sure to watch it if you’re in the UK! Info:

Wonders of the Monsoon will air on BBC 2 at 8pm on Sunday October 5th


34 thoughts on “OMG: Monster leech swallows giant worm

  1. I once witnessed a garter snake eating a large bull frog. I’ll never forget it. It took over an hour. Leaves you forever with a sense on wonder, and a bit of slime on your lips.

    1. I once caught a garter snake that barfed a half digested bullfrog onto my arm. I’ll never forget that either. Great escape mechanism as I immediately dropped it. I sort of gagged and my older brother couldn’t stop laughing.

  2. Didn’t his mother tell him not to take such big bites for fear he might choke? And don’t gulp, chew your food before swallowing.

  3. What a bad ass leech! I wouldn’t even put salt on it like I did the ones that got between my toes when I was a kid!

        1. Yeah my parents put salt on them. You didn’t have to put a lot and they let go. I think I was about 2 or 3 at the time.

  4. There’s something about the colour scheme of those two annelids…

    That species is apparently a dietary specialist on earthworms, but I would be surprised if it doesn’t have close relatives that swallow serpentiform vertebrates like eels, caecilians, and snakes. We’re all made of the same stuff, after all.

    1. I’m guessing these leeches would’ve trouble with things like snakes and eels who would probably be quicker to figure out that Mr. Red was stroking them while searching for an end. My money would be on the snake in that contest.

  5. What’s the big deal? The worm is just donning a garish stocking before it goes out on the town.

    And I once thought Bogie was tough in that scene from The African Queen:

    “While filming the “leeching” scene, Humphrey Bogart insisted on using rubber leeches. John Huston refused, and brought a leech-breeder to the London studio with a tank full of them. It made Bogart queasy and nervous, qualities Huston wanted for his close-ups. Ultimately, rubber leeches were placed on Bogart, and a close-up of a real leech was shot on the breeder’s chest.”

  6. Reminds me of the scifi world setting of “The Skinner”. It has a planet where the ecology is slowly overtaken by super-sized leeches as top predators, those environment is constrained by a virus specializing in horizontal gene transfer,

    It isn’t that hard scifi realistic and so builds on classic misunderstanding of evolution (the virus is working for individual survival rather than species survival), so maybe not a book series for a biologist despite having interesting species. But at least the author has read up on evolution at the 2nd book and makes a good faith effort to retrofit some of the mistakes in the 1st.

    I think the author missed out on a nice color scheme though.

  7. If we could put a second leech on the other end of the worm, we’d soon get two bloated Giant Red Leeches kissing, Lady-and-the-Tramp style. AW, SO CUTE!

    Until the leech with the bigger mouth decided just to open wider and keep going, perhaps.

Leave a Reply