Lamprey story

Caught my first lamprey (eel) on the Eel River in a deep swimming hole next to some river otters goofing around and a big rock to jump off of. Then friend Bruce gave me the February 2022 edition of High Country News which had a neat article about this fantastic and ancient creature. That got the drawings started; guess this is my take on a Yakama Nation lamprey origin story, and some science about its lifecycle too. It was a long long time ago…

(1) In the old times, all the animals gathered to gamble in a game of sticks. The chiefs of all the tribes were present. Most prominent amongst them was the Lamprey, who dazzled everyone with his regal manner and charismatic being.

(2) But luck and fortune were not on Lamprey’s side this night. With every roll of the dice, he got more frustrated and angry. He was losing big time.

(3) First he gambled away his handsome lodge in the mountains. Lost it.

(4) Then, he put all his money beads and jewelry on the line. Lost those.

(5) “This can’t be happening!” Lamprey put his wives and children on the board as wager. Lost them quickly too.

(6) Lamprey was running out of options. So in this order, he gambled his graceful jaw and nice set of teeth, his big luminous eyes, his shining glowing patterned skin, and his fancy fins and tail. He lost all of these things.

(7) Desperation move. Lamprey pulled out his whole bony skeleton and wagered that too. Lamprey said, “My luck has got to turn, right now! C’mon! Roll ‘em!” And sad to say, he lost once again.

(8) The night was late, and it was bout that time. Everyone said their goodbyes and headed back home under the stars. Salmon walked towards the river with his winnings. He looked back and said, “Hey Lamprey you alright?”, but Lamprey was just sobbing. Salmon said, “Well see you in the ocean then.”

(9) The life cycle of the lamprey goes like this: In a freshwater gravel bed, eggs are laid by females, and fertilized by males jizzing.

(10) Lamprey babies hatch, and live life like a worm stuck in the sand. They got no eyes, don’t swim around; just sit there plugged, filtering whatever bits of yum yum comes by the river.

(11) As they get older, at some point they grow a circular jaw full teeth, a kidney that can take the salt water, and transform into adults.

(12) Down the river they go to the ocean.

(13) In the sea, they use their sucker disc jaw full of sharp chompers and latch onto fish. This is how they feed themselves. Not quite a predator – a parasite.

(14) After a while of this suckering, they smell the baby lamprey worms in some distant river, and get inspired to return to fresh water. Time to make babies. They go up stream against the current, clasping onto rocks with that round mouth of theirs and jumping with it all the way up up up the river.

(15) Then they come to a good mating, breeding, and egg laying spot. It starts all over again. Thats the whole cycle. And all them rotten stinky oily carcasses feed the forest trees and fungi.

(16) Anatomy wise, you got the round sucking mouth part full of jagged little teeth.

(17) No bony skeleton, just a lil ol’ brain attached to a spinal cord, a notocord, and a bunch of cartilage providing support.

(18) Seven gill hole slits for breathing.

(19) One nostril hole at the top of the head like a dolphin.

(20) Two little gray blue eyes.

(21) And the seven drums sound boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Here we go… Go Lampreys!!!