The key difference between leeches and bloodsuckers is that leeches are soft, segmented, parasitic or predatory worms that feed by sucking blood from other animals while bloodsuckers are animals that show blood-feeding behaviour.
Blood is a good source of nutrients. It is also highly available. Certain animals, including parasites, feed on blood. They live on or in other animals. The behaviour of feeding on blood is called hematophagy. Many of them are not dangerous to human, but they can transmit viruses, bacteria and other pathogens during their blood-feeding behaviour. Leeches are segmented soft worms that feed by sucking blood from fish, frogs, lizards, birds and larger animals like humans. In addition to leeches, there are various other animals feeding on blood. We call these bloodsuckers. Mosquitoes, ticks, vampire bats, bed bugs, lice, and lamprey fish are several types of bloodsuckers.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Leeches
3. What are Bloodsuckers
4. Similarities Between Leeches and Bloodsuckers
5. Side by Side Comparison – Leeches vs Bloodsuckers in Tabular Form
What are Leeches?
Leeches are worms that need blood to grow and reproduce. Therefore, they are a type of bloodsuckers. They feed by sucking blood from fish, frogs, lizards, birds and larger animals like humans. Leeches are found mostly in freshwater and damp environments. They belong to the phylum Annelida and subclass Hirudinea. Their bodies are soft and segmented, showing close relatedness to earthworms. They can lengthen and contract. Leeches have muscular suckers at both their anterior and posterior ends. They use them for feeding and moving.
Leeches are not dangerous to humans. They bite without causing too much pain. Some leeches are parasitic while some are predatory. Moreover, some leeches eat organic debris. Leeches breathe through their skin. Individual leeches are hermaphroditic and have reproductive organs of both sexes. An attached leech can be removed by applying salt, alcohol, turpentine or vinegar. Pulling off a leech forcefully or roughly is not recommended since a chronic infection can happen due to leftover mouthparts of the leech in the wound.
The saliva of leeches has anticoagulants. These anticoagulants dilate blood to increase the flow and prevent blood clotting. Due to these properties, anticoagulants of leeches are used during surgeries to prevent blood clotting. They are also used to dissolve existing blood clots.
What are Bloodsuckers?
Bloodsuckers are certain creatures that feed on the blood of other animals. Normally they feed on larger animals without causing too much pain or death. Most bloodsuckers are parasitic. Mosquitoes, leeches, ticks, vampire bats, bed bugs, lice, other insects and lamprey fish are some examples of bloodsuckers. Since they feed on blood, certain viruses, bacteria and parasites are transmitted from person to person, causing diseases such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, etc.
Lamprey feed on the blood of other fish by clamping onto their bodies. Mosquitoes pierce the skin with their long, thin mouthparts in order to suck blood. Some bloodsuckers use certain mechanisms to go unnoticed as they feed in order to protect from the host. For example, mosquitoes have mild anaesthetics in their saliva, which make them go unnoticed. Moreover, most bloodsuckers produce anticoagulants to keep blood flowing.
What are the Similarities Between Leeches and Bloodsuckers?
- Leeches are a type of bloodsuckers.
- Both leeches and bloodsuckers show feeding on blood behaviour or hematophagy.
- Leeches and bloodsuckers produce anticoagulants.
- They live on both land and water.
What is the Difference Between Leeches and Bloodsuckers?
Leeches are soft and segmented worms belonging to phylum Annelida while bloodsuckers are creatures that feed by sucking blood. So, this is the key difference between leeches and bloodsuckers. There are different species of leeches while bloodsuckers include mosquitoes, ticks, vampire bats, bed bugs, lice, other insects and the lamprey fish, etc.
Summary – Leeches vs Bloodsuckers
Leeches are bloodsucking worms that belong to phylum Annelida. They are soft and segmented worms that are closely related to earthworms. On the other hand, bloodsuckers are animals that feed on blood. There are different types of bloodsuckers. Some of them are mosquitoes, ticks, vampire bats, bed bugs, lice, other insects and the lamprey fish. Both leeches and bloodsuckers show feeding on blood behaviour. Thus, this summarizes the difference between leeches and bloodsuckers.
1. “Leech.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., Available here.
2. Sirucek, Stefan. “8 Of Nature’s Thirstiest Bloodsuckers.” National Geographic News, 30 Oct. 2013, Available here.