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Brook lamprey

Find out about the rare and unusual looking lamprey (Lampetra planeri), which spends its time attached to the bottom of a waterway.

Brook Lamprey, copyright Paul Frear, Environment Agency

Lamprey hold on to the bottom of a waterway, suckered on with the use of their mouth. They feed on bacteria, algae and other types of detritus from the water and the mud. They are present in the Swansea Canal in quite high numbers and occasionally appear elsewhere.


  • Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species
  • Listed on Annex III of the Bern Convention and Annex II of the European Commission Habitats Directive (3).
  • Rare in the UK
  • Special Area of Conservation Annex II species at a number of sites

Appearance: lampreys lack gill covers and paired fins. Instead of a jawed mouth, they have a sucker disc with two tooth plates containing a few blunt teeth.

They are eel-like in shape, being long and cylindrical with a rear dorsal fin near to the tail and seven breathing holes on each side of the body (visible in the picture, just behind the eye). They are dark brown or dark grey in the body, with a white belly and bright yellow eyes.

Typical size: 10-15cm

Lifespan: 4 to 8 years


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Last Edited: 24 December 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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