Get ready to change the way you think about leeches forever after watching this monster leech effortlessly sucking down a 27-inch-long worm as it tries desperately to escape.
This spectacular — yet horrifying — footage was captured on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo for BBC Two’s Wonders of the Monsoon.
While you may think leeches are strictly parasitic, some species—roughly 25%—are actually predatory like this one. These creatures have an extendable proboscis which, for the most part, remains retracted inside their mouths. To catch prey, they lie in wait until an invertebrate gets close. Then, they’ll spear the unsuspecting victim with their proboscis, sucking it in and swallowing it whole.
The nightmare-worthy creature featured in the footage is likely the Kinabalu giant red leech, a brightly colored leech native to Borneo. The giant leech feeds primarily on large worms, lying in wait in leaf litter and damp soil until one slithers by.
Some predatory leeches have been known to survive for over a year without feeding. When do they finally feed, they can consume several times their own weight.
You would be surprised at the effect that they can have on the populations of other species, too. One study noted that predatory leeches were likely the cause for amphibian declines in California. During the study, leeches were documented probing and tearing at amphibian egg masses.
There are over 500 species of leeches around the world. You can find them in freshwater, seawater, or a mix of the two — and some species can even exist on land.