Cannibalism in a population of the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis L.).Izv Akad Nauk Ser Biol. 2005 Nov-DecIA
Medicinal leeches (Hirudo medicinalis L.) were maintained in large ponds in a commercial leech farm at Biebertal, Germany. The feeding of hungry adult leeches was performed on representative individuals that were placed on cloth soaked with mammalian blood obtained from a local butchery (pig, Sus scrofa). In a second set of experiments, cane toads (Bufo marinus) were used as host organisms. The leeches rapidly attached to the toads, explored the body and sucked blood. After feeding, the fully engorged leeches were placed into the pond or an aquarium. In this artificial habitat, the satiated leeches were attacked by hungry conspecifics, sucked off and killed. This observation demonstrates that H. medicinalis must be classified as a cannibalistic annelid.