The catfishes in the Neotropical subfamily Vandelliinae (family Trichomycteridae) feed exclusively on blood as adults, a very rare feeding specialization among vertebrates (the lampreys and vampire bats being the obvious examples). Little is known about these fish. The recently discovered juveniles are apparently predators on small aquatic invetebrates, as is the case for most other trichomycterids from other subfamilies. The structure of the mouth of juvenile vandelliines also resembles that of non-parasitic trichomycterids, but they undergo a metamorphosis during which their mouth structure transforms to the highly modified adult blood-feeding morphology. It is possible that they produce an anticoagulant as they feed since the large amount of blood taken in a single feeding bout (around twice their body volume) remains liquid during digestion. It has been speculated that some vandelliine species may be carried by large migratory fishes to upriver spawning grounds, with the large volume of ingested blood possibly inducing hormonal changes to synchronize their reproductive state with that of the host.
(De Pinna 2006)
- De Pinna, M.C.C. 2006. Diversity of Tropical Fishes. Pp. 47-84 in: A.L. Val, V.M.F. de Almeda-Val, and D.J. Randall, eds. The Physiology of Tropical Fishes. Academic Press.