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Photos from a Leech Farm

baby leechs emergingEnglish Russia has assembled a collection of about 50 photos from a Russian medicinal leech farm, documenting the technology used to raise them by the millions.  The reproductive process of hermaphroditic creatures is a bit complex:
As hermaphrodites, leeches have both male and female sex organs... Mating involves the intertwining of bodies where each deposits sperm in the others' clitellar area... The clitellum secretes a tough gelatinous cocoon which contains nutrients, and it is in this that the eggs are deposited... The cocoon is either buried or attached to a rock, log or leaf and dries to a foamy crust. After several weeks or months, the young emerge as miniature adults. Studies show that the cocoons are capable of surviving the digestive system of a duck.

The photo above shows the cute little newborns emerging from a cocoon.  Cootchie-cootcie-coo!  The leeches are fed slaughterhouse blood until their distribution to medical clinics, where they may be stored in pretty pink jars.

Links for the photo album and the biology.

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