In A Nutshell
Deep in the Amazon rainforest lives a creature that only grows as long as your pinkie . . . yet it’s one of the most monstrous creatures on the planet. Known as the Tyrannobdella rex, this sharp-toothed beast is a leech with disturbingly large fangs (well, for a leech, anyway). And unfortunately, this Peruvian parasite has a really bad habit of climbing up people’s noses.
The Whole Bushel
Monsters aren’t real. Everybody knows they’re just make-believe . . . right? Well, it all depends on what you mean by “monster.” If you’re talking about giant lizards that smash up Tokyo or undead ghouls staggering down the street, then no. If you’re talking about a jungle-dwelling vampire with an insatiable appetite for human blood, then yes, monsters are definitely real.
This horrible creature is called Tyrannobdella rex which means “tyrant leech king.” Despite its moniker, this awful annelid is usually less than 5 centimeters (2 in) long. Its teeth, on the other hand, are humongous. The T. rex leech has eight sharp fangs, each one 130 microns high. Okay, that might sound really small, and to the human eye, it is. Each tooth is only as wide as a human hair, but hey, that’s five times bigger than the average leech’s teeth. In other words, these guys have a ferocious bite.
These eight tiny knives are all attached to one, powerful jaw that essentially works like a saw. Once it’s done slicing away, the leech sucks up all that nice, tasty blood like some sort of slimy vacuum. But what’s truly terrible about the T. rex leech is that it’s not content to latch onto your arm or leg. No, this guy dines on mucous membranes, and that means the T. rex leech will crawl onto your eye, up your nose, down your throat, or into your private parts, ladies and gents. And sometimes they stay there for weeks.
In fact, that’s how this eerie invertebrate was discovered. Back in 1997, a doctor pulled one of these bloodsuckers out of the nostril of a 16-month-old Peruvian boy. Just a few months later, a nine-year-old girl started complaining about a strange “sliding” sensation in the back of her nose. Care to guess the culprit? However, doctors didn’t know they were dealing with an entirely new species, and the T. rex leech stayed under the scientific radar until 2007 when, once again, the creature was found slurping away inside a young girl’s schnoz. As you might imagine, every single victim had been taking baths in jungle streams, and they all suffered from splitting headaches.
While it’s an incredibly creepy critter, the T. rex leech might actually play an important role in medicine one day. Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City are studying the creature in hopes of developing drugs to prevent blood clotting. Who knows? Possibly some day in the future, this little leech might be saving lives. It just goes to show that every animal—even if they’re a vile demon from the depths of hell—plays an important role on our planet.