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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Spawning by the European eel across 2000 km of the Sargasso Sea

Miller, Michael J.; Westerberg, Hakan; Sparholt, Henrik; Wysujack, Klaus; Sorensen, Sune R.; Marohn, Lasse; Jacobsen, Magnus W.; Freese, Marko; Ayala, Daniel J.; Pohlmann, Jan-Dag; Svendsen, Jon C.; Watanabe, Shun; Andersen, Line; Moller, Peter R.; Tsukamoto, Katsumi; Munk, Peter; Hanel, Reinhold


It has been known for about a century that European eels have a unique life history that includes offshore spawning in the Sargasso Sea about 5000-7000 km away from their juvenile and adult habitats in Europe and northern Africa. Recently hatched eel larvae were historically collected during Danish, German and American surveys in specific areas in the southern Sargasso Sea. During a 31 day period of March and April 2014, Danish and German research ships sampled for European eel larvae along 15 alternating transects of stations across the Sargasso Sea. The collection of recently hatched eel larvae (<= 12 mm) from 70 degrees W and eastward to 50 degrees W showed that the European eel had been spawning across a 2000 km wide region of the North Atlantic Ocean. Historical collections made from 1921 to 2007 showed that small larvae had also previously been collected in this wide longitudinal zone, showing that the spatial extent of spawning has not diminished in recent decades, irrespective of the dramatic decline in recruitment. The use of such a wide spawning area may be related to variations in the onset of the silver eel spawning migration, individual differences in their long-term swimming ability, or aspects of larval drift.


Anguilla anguilla; spawning area; migration; leptocephali; ocean fronts; Sargasso Sea

Published in

Biology Letters
2019, volume: 15, number: 4, article number: 20180835
Publisher: ROYAL SOC

Authors' information

Miller, Michael J.
Nihon University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Sparholt, Henrik
Technical University of Denmark
Wysujack, Klaus
Thunen Inst Fisheries Ecol
Sorensen, Sune R.
Technical University of Denmark
Marohn, Lasse
Thunen Inst Fisheries Ecol
Jacobsen, Magnus W.
Aarhus University
Freese, Marko
Thunen Inst Fisheries Ecol
Ayala, Daniel J.
Technical University of Denmark
Pohlmann, Jan-Dag
Thunen Inst Fisheries Ecol
Svendsen, Jon C.
Technical University of Denmark
Watanabe, Shun
Kindai University (Kinki University)
Andersen, Line
Aarhus University
Moller, Peter R.
University of Copenhagen
Tsukamoto, Katsumi
Nihon University
Munk, Peter
Technical University of Denmark
Hanel, Reinhold
Thunen Inst Fisheries Ecol

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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