Photo 13 Feb 69 notes The Giant Amazon Leech (Haementeria ghilianii de Filippi, 1849) is the world’s largest leech, growing to a length of 18 inches (45.7 cm), and possibly living as long as 20 years. This green-brown species is a temporary blood-sucking ectoparasite on mammals and feeds by injecting a long proboscis [up to 6 inches (15.2 cm)] into the host’s skin. Haementeria ghilianii had not been collected since 1893 and was thought to be extinct. “Grandma Moses” was 1 of 2 adults of H. ghilianii that was rediscovered in the 1970’s in a pond in French Guiana by Dr. Roy Sawyer  (image credit: Timothy Branning). “Grandma Moses” founded a leech breeding colony at the University of California-Berkeley and produced more than 750 offspring (valued at $150 each) in 3 years. More than 46 medical, neurological and natural history research publications were based on data from specimens reared at the University of California-Berkeley breeding colony. Some important discoveries from the offspring of “Grandma Moses” include the characterization and purification of several proteins with an anticoagulant andantimetastatic effect, including hementin which destroys human fibrin blood clots; charting connection of nerve cells; and functional morphology of salivary and nerve cells. Following its death, “Grandma Moses” was deposited in the collections of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USNM 59930.

The Giant Amazon Leech (Haementeria ghilianii de Filippi, 1849) is the world’s largest leech, growing to a length of 18 inches (45.7 cm), and possibly living as long as 20 years. This green-brown species is a temporary blood-sucking ectoparasite on mammals and feeds by injecting a long proboscis [up to 6 inches (15.2 cm)] into the host’s skin. Haementeria ghilianii had not been collected since 1893 and was thought to be extinct. “Grandma Moses” was 1 of 2 adults of H. ghilianii that was rediscovered in the 1970’s in a pond in French Guiana by Dr. Roy Sawyer (image credit: Timothy Branning). “Grandma Moses” founded a leech breeding colony at the University of California-Berkeley and produced more than 750 offspring (valued at $150 each) in 3 years. More than 46 medical, neurological and natural history research publications were based on data from specimens reared at the University of California-Berkeley breeding colony. Some important discoveries from the offspring of “Grandma Moses” include the characterization and purification of several proteins with an anticoagulant andantimetastatic effect, including hementin which destroys human fibrin blood clots; charting connection of nerve cells; and functional morphology of salivary and nerve cells. Following its death, “Grandma Moses” was deposited in the collections of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USNM 59930.

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