Strange thought for the Day

I’m (finally) reading The Origin of Species, and came across this comment:

So again with the varieties of sheep: it has been asserted that certain mountain-varieties will starve out other mountain-varieties, so that they cannot be kept together. The same result has followed from keeping together different varieties of the medicinal leech.

That’s something I had never thought about before – how are medicinal leeches kept when they are not used? Do they each have their own little velvet-lined1 box? Or are they instead stuffed together in a plastic bag, and when one is needed, the doctor just puts some forceps in and grabs the nearest?


Google, as always, is our friend. The book Medicinal Leech Therapy tells us “that there are special containers for leech storage, and even a company in Germany that makes them. For long-term storage, they need stones with sharp edges to help with moulting.
I feel there is hope for mankind in this – despite everything that goes on in the world, someone still feels sees the need to provide housing for as surprising a beast as a leech.

1 I guess a vervet-lined box might be more to their liking.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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5 Responses to Strange thought for the Day

  1. Maxine Clarke says:

    Oh how disappointing – I was reading NN in RSS and clicked through to the site to look for the answer in your comments – and there aren’t any! I hope someone knows. Best question I’ve seen all year.

  2. Bob O'Hara says:

    The year is only 6 days old, Maxine. :-)

  3. Brian Derby says:

    Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester has an excellent exhibition in its Apprentice House on Victorian Medicine, including some living medicinal leeches ( a favourite with school parties). These appear to be kept in what looks like a small aquarium – I am not sure what they are fed with, although the aformentioned school parties may be useful.

  4. Katherine Haxton says:

    I always hoped they kept the medicinal leeches on naughty med students.

  5. Maxine Clarke says:

    That was my irony, Bob. ;-)