We live in the world of insects. Insects live from tropics to the polar regions, in rain forests, deserts and man-made structures. We tend to imagine leeches as vampires. There are about 650 known species of leeches. Though some of them are blood sucking species, others normally rely on smaller invertebrates or remains of dead organisms. Most of them live in fresh water surroundings while few others live in sea water. Leeches are hermaphrodites meaning they possess both male and female reproductive organs.
Leeches have a sucker at each end of its body. They get hold of the skin of the victim. They bite into the skin and with the help of its hind sucker attach themselves around the wound. Now they start feeding blood and a chemical present in their saliva prevents blood from clotting. This helps in a free flow of blood for the leeches to suck. They can eat six to eight times their body weight. A leech’s digestive tract has blood storing pouches. A single meal can last for several months.
Leeches are quite useful in the medical industry. A species by name European medicinal leech was widely before to heal bruises and also treat certain diseases. Even today they are used widely in the field of medicine. They help in treating burns when the skin is not able to regenerate itself. Burns are treated by moving skin tissue from other parts of the body to the injured part without bringing its own blood supply with it. This technique is called skin grafting. Leeches help in skin grafting by removing the pooled blood under the graft and restoring blood supply in the blocked veins. Once the leech is full, it falls off. Sometimes the procedure requires that leeches are used for days together. These insects are stored in hospital refrigerators.
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