The Vampire Snail

Vampires have long been a staple in movies, but vampire-like behavior is actually fairly common in nature. 

The Vampire Snail, Columbraria reticulata, is such a creature. Like the movie vampires, it is active at night. It feeds on the blood of sleeping fish. It has a long proboscis that can stretch to a length as long as the snail’s whole body. This enables it to easily victimize the fish. The snails are mollusks that move around easily.

This may seem like simple behavior, just sneaking up on an unsuspecting sleeping victim, but the reality is an amazingly complicated. The snail secretes an anesthetic substance that assures that the fish won’t feel anything. In the mix of what the snail injects into the fish is an anticoagulant so that the blood won’t clot and stop flowing. Another part of the mix includes compounds that increase the fish’s blood pressure so that the fish’s circulatory system pumps blood into the snail. 

The vampire snail does not kill the fish it feeds on. The chemistry in the complicated brew the snails inject into their fish victims is extremely complex and contains literally  hundreds of compounds. The snails are the object of a great deal of medical research. 

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