Vampire catfishes seek the aorta not the jugular: candirus of the genus Vandellia (Trichomycteridae) feed on major gill arteries of host fishes

Jansen Zuanon and Ivan Sazima

aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, pp. 31-36, Volume 8, Issue 1 – February 2004


Species of the trichomycterid catfish genus Vandellia (candirus) feed on blood from other fishes, usually entering the gill chamber of their hosts. However, exactly where these vampire fish attach themselves in the chamber to take blood remains unrecorded. Herein we present evidence that two candiru species, Vandellia cirrhosa and V. sanguinea, seek the major gill arteries. Both species bite mostly at the ventral or dorsal arteries, and the blood is presumably pumped into their gut by the hosts’ blood pressure. We suggest that candirus do not need any special sucking or pumping mechanism become rapidly engorged themselves with blood but simply use their needle-like teeth to make an incision in an artery. This being the case, the notion of blood-sucking by the candiru is misleading.

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