Monday 29 September 2014

Giant Red Leech

It's nightmare in paradise!

The paradise in question is Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, and as immense lumps of rock go, it's an extraordinarily luscious one. From the lowland forests to the montane forests and meadows, Mount Kinabalu is home to enormous pitcher plants, gigantic Rafflesia, hundreds of orchids and thousands of other plant species, many found nowhere else on earth.

Image: Cabreney Johnny
Mount Kinabalu
Of course there are beautiful birds flitting from branch to branch. Of course there are secretive mammals skulking from shadow to shadow. But sometimes it pays to look down. Especially if what if you really want are some new ideas for your next nightmare.

After heavy rain, and it rains a lot on Mount Kinabalu, you may be shocked to find giant, bluish-grey earthworms rising to the surface. They can get some 70 cm (2 ft 4 in) long, so you probably will be quite shocked. But what if it got eaten? Not by a bird or a mammal...

But by a bright red, 50 cm (20 in) leech! A giant leech with big, bold colours so you can see exactly how giant it is!

"Look at me! Look at me! I'm a great, big leech! A great, big, nasty leech! Watch me eat. Isn't it the most disgusting thing you've ever seen? Yaaaay!"

It's like a hosepipe eating another hosepipe. The leech finds its prey by sniffing out the mucus trail earthworms leave in their wake. Once it catches up, the leech runs its wet, slimy mouth up and down the worm's wet, slimy body. Eventually it finds an end to those 2 feet of worm body and then stretches its mouth open and begins to suck the worm in like a giant, meaty spaghetti.

The worm thrashes about and attempts to drag itself out of the depths of digestive darkness but it appears completely defenceless against the leech's firm, muscular grip. The worm is eventually engulfed over the course of some 15 minutes, and the leech disappears into the undergrowth to spend about a month digesting its meal. It isn't even clear at what point the earthworm actually dies.

Sometimes leeches like this bite off more than they can chew... as it were. They don't actually bite anything. It would be better if they actually did bite off manageable pieces like a civilised creature rather than swallow the entire thing whole. But if they try to swallow something that is simply too big for them, they regurgitate the lot and some earthworms can escape that way. Escape with their lives and... memories.

If only those leeches could SEE themselves eating. They'd feel sick to the stomach and many more worms would escape!


Lots of pictures of this event over at The Iron Ammonite. If you're into that kind of thing.


  1. So if I were to put a reasonably think strand of spagetti on the ground, would they slurp that up as well? :p

  2. This makes me so very, very happy.

  3. @TexWisGirl: A totally appropriate reaction!

    @Esther: If you can invent some kind of giant, meaty spaghetti it will not only work, but you'll have created a new street food!

    @Crunchy: Nature says otherwise!

    @Lear's Fool: You win a prize! I don't which prize, but a prize.

  4. This would definitely put me behind the couch.

  5. I don't blame you! If only those poor earthworms had a couch of their own

  6. And there I was thinking the first picture was ONE, weirdly shaped animal.

    Nope, it turned out to be even more disturbing than that!

  7. @Erik: don't feel too bad, I myself though that the leach had a reversible pharynx (I think it's called that).

    Find out it's something just as disturbing. let's just be glad that these things don't come in human eating sizes!

  8. Also, I think that that was blood I saw come from the worm at the end of the video.....

  9. Nevermind. T.rex (the giant eye-boring leech) is still alive.

  10. @Bk Jeong: I haven't done any extinct creatures but I do have a couple ideas for some stuff. The Tyrant Leech King sounds great either way! I think this is the first leech I've ever covered here, that's a whole slice of life I've barely touched on.

    @Erik Sanderson: Hahah! It does look like it! It'd be cool if it just looked weird but it's actually a lot more nightmarish than that.

    @Porakiya Draekojin: *Eversible. It can be everted.

    Yeah, looks like blood at the end doesn't it? It's like he's coughing the stuff up like they do in the movies. Nasty!

  11. @ Porakiya Draekojin
    I admit had to look up what a pharynx is. Interesting!

  12. @Erick: better look up scale worms, then. better yet, here's a link:

  13. Oh wow, yeah. That one was a shocker!

  14. Ew! There's something uniquely horrifying about anything that does anything to eyes!

  15. There is a close-up image of its three, quite large lamprey-like teeth in the web.

  16. In case you couldn't find it:

  17. Wow... I definitely need to get onto leeches. Thanks for the tip!

  18. What I'm about to tell you is freaky and scary. Me and my nephew went exploring in the Buffalo stream on Saturday. I bought water shoes for both of us so we could walk through the water and not damage our feet. We both were in the water up to our knees. He is Smaller and wanted to swim so I said OK it wasn't fast water so it was OK. It started to get late so we headed back. When I got home my right foot felt squishy, like some mud was in my water shoe I walk in my kitchen to wash off my water does in the sink and my nephew said oh my got your gushing blood everywhere. There was puddles of from my foot steps. I mean my whole foot was drenched in blood, but I didn't feel no pain I washed my whole foot off I couldn't find any cut. Then I found a little whole between my toe's and it wouldn't stop bleeding. I went back to the sink there it was in pices. A red leech it was sucking between my toe's while ivwas driving. Thencwhen I gotvout of the car I must of squished it and not realizing it squished into little pieces. When I examined the pieces it must of been like 8-9 inches long. I also made my nephew examine his body to see if he had one. He lucked out, nothing. I have never seen a leech that was red. I still freaking out about it.

  19. Good grief, that's incredibly grim! It's shocking to think that a worm can just hang out, sucking your blood without you even realising. I wonder if they can numb the bite somehow? Yikes!