Hunt for the Giant Leech

  • By Peter Tyson
  • Posted 07.01.08
  • NOVA scienceNOW

Imagine you're about to join leech expert Mark Siddall on a field search for the giant Amazonian leech. As he leads you knee-deep into the leech's swampy tropical habitat, you consider what you'd urgently like to know about the near-mythic creature he's seeking. For starters, how big? Well, it's the world's largest bloodsucking leech, growing up to a foot and a half long. Any other questions?

Launch Interactive Printable Version

You suddenly find yourself waist-deep in the swampy home of the giant Amazonian leech. What now?



(Mark Siddall on porch)
Courtesy Sara Watson;
(French Guyana)
© Philippe Giraud/Goodlook/Corbis;
(canoe on river, scorpion, leaf, rash, foot, capybara, caiman, bloody leg, long leech in hand, fat leech in two palms, undissected & dissected leeches)
Courtesy Mark Siddall;
(Siddall in swamp, Siddall bending in water)
Courtesy Susan Perkins;
© Wolfgang Kaehler/CORBIS;
© Reuters/CORBIS;
(Roy Sawyer with leech)
Courtesy Timothy Branning/

Related Links

  • Leeches

    A century after falling out of favor, medicinal leeches are back in hospitals, sucking away on patients' wounds.

  • Leeches: Expert Q&A

    Mark Siddall, lord of leeches at the American Museum, answers questions about these stretchy, bloodsucking creatures.

  • The Secret Life of Mark Siddall

    Meet Mark Siddall, a leech expert and chef of exotic food.


You need the Flash Player plug-in to view this content.