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Beach-goers horrified after finding real-life ‘Dune worm’ vampire creature

Beach-goers were aghast after a bloodsucking sea beast the size of a child washed ashore in the UK, sparking comparisons to the supersized sand worms from
Beach-goers were aghast after a bloodsucking sea beast the size of a child washed ashore in the UK, sparking comparisons to the supersized sand worms from "Dune."

Beach-goers were aghast after a bloodsucking sea beast the size of a child washed ashore in the UK, sparking comparisons to the supersized sandworms from “Dune.” A photo of the parasitic critter made waves on Facebook as viewers attempted to guess its identity.

“It was like a hugely oversized leech with a sucker full of sharp, inward-pointing teeth,” the pic’s poster Will Miles, 26, told Pen News of this maritime night terror.

“I’d never seen one washed up before and expected I never would,” said Will Miles. Credit: Jarco Havermans via Pen News
“I’d never seen one washed up before and expected I never would,” said Will Miles. Credit: Jarco Havermans via Pen News

The warehouse worker, who resides in Bovey Tracey, reportedly discovered the freaky flotsam while strolling along a beach in Devon after work.

“It was very noticeable, lying in the center part of the beach near the tideline,” exclaimed Miles, who estimated that it measured around 31 inches long — the size of a two-year-old child.

Accompanying photos show the animal, which has a slender, eel-esque body and rows of undulating teeth like Pennywise from the Stephen King horror classic “IT.”

Hoping to shed light on its identity, the Brit posted a pic of it to a Facebook group for naturalists, prompting a range of unhelpful and hilarious hypotheses.

Many compared them to the subterranean space worms from Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel “Dune,” which inspired multiple blockbusters, most recently Denis Villeneuve’s critically acclaimed hit “Dune 2.”

“Looks like the sandworm from Dune,” said one, while another wrote, “Only just seen the film and that’s where my head went straight away.”

As it turns out, the mystery creature is actually a sea lamprey, an ancient species of cartilaginous fish that subsists on the blood of larger fish and mammals.

Sea lampreys can grow nearly four feet long in marine environments. Credit: Jarco Havermans via Pen News
Sea lampreys can grow nearly four feet long in marine environments. Credit: Jarco Havermans via Pen News
“It was like a hugely oversized leech,” described Miles. Credit: Pen News/Will Miles
“It was like a hugely oversized leech,” described Miles. Credit: Pen News/Will Miles

This Atlantic ocean native — which can grow to nearly four feet long — feeds by latching onto its prey with its tooth-covered disc.

It then slurps up the blood and bodily tissue using a toothed rasping tongue, much like the inner jaw of one of the space parasites from “Alien.”

While attacks on humans are rare, the sea lamprey has been known to latch into people while they’re swimming.

Thankfully, the bite won’t be fatal, but it can be painful and “untreated wounds could lead to infection,” the Weather Network reports.

A closeup of the sea lampreys teeth and tongue. Credit: Pen News/Will Miles
A closeup of the sea lampreys teeth and tongue. Credit: Pen News/Will Miles

The sea lamprey is anadromous, meaning they migrate from saltwater to freshwater to spawn like bloodsucking salmon.

“For five years they live embedded in the bottom where they filter-feed detritus,” explained Marine biologist Jarco Havermans. “After these five years, they metamorphose into an adult sea lamprey which migrates to sea to live as a parasitic fish species on larger fish species and whales. For reproduction they migrate back to the rivers.”

Once widespread throughout the UK, the species is on the decline with experts blaming low water quality and barriers in the rivers where they breed.

In the US, the sea lamprey is native to the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Ontario and the St. LawrenceRiver, but have become an invasive nuisance in the Great Lakes, where they’re wreaking havoc on local ecosystems.