The external metamorphosis of the sea lamprey was divided into four stages, based primarily on the condition of the mouth: mouth reduced, mouth fused, mouth enclosed, and mouth elongated. During metamorphosis, the eye enlarged greatly, the snout and mouth region changed from a fleshy hood enclosing a sieve apparatus to a large sucking disc, the nasopore membrane and the branchial area shrank, the branchiopores changed in shape, the general color changed from dark brown and yellow to an intense blue-black dorsally and white ventrally, and the total length increased. Metamorphosis began in early to mid-July and did not take place after August. The duration of external metamorphosis was about 3 months for lampreys transforming under natural conditions. The mean lengths of metamorphosing lampreys from tributaries of lakes Superior and Michigan were 145 and 136 mm, respectively.
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Metamorphosis of the landlocked sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus