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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

The effect of externally attached archival data loggers on the short-term dispersal behaviour and migration speed of European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.)

Verhelst, Pieterjan; Aarestrup, Kim; Hellstrom, Gustav; Jepsen, Niels; Koed, Anders; Reubens, Jan; Sjoeberg, Niklas; Svendsen, Jon Christian; Kristensen, Martin Lykke


Background Externally attached archival data logging tags are increasingly used to unravel migration routes of fish species at sea. Due to the relatively large size of the tags, their application on seaward migrating anguillid eels often forms a challenge in terms of feasibility and impact on the eel's swimming performance. In this study, we investigated the impact of externally attached pop-up data storage tags (PDSTs) on the departure direction, time spent at the release location and ground speed of European eels (Anguilla anguilla). Results We tagged 66 eels with internal acoustic transmitters of which half of the eels were additionally tagged with externally attached PDSTs. A network of acoustic receivers allowed us to analyse if the dispersal behaviour (i.e. residence time and departure direction) from the release site differed between eels tagged with and without the PDSTs. In addition, we tracked the eels for ca. 83 km in the marine environment and determined their migration speed. The results showed no differences between eels tagged with or without external PDSTs in respect of the external tagging effect on residence time (n = 60), departure direction at the release site (n = 60) or on the migration speed (n = 20). Conclusions We conclude that the impact of the PDSTs is minimal on these metrics for at least the first part of the marine migration. While these field-based findings suggest that anguillid eels may be largely unaffected by the applied PDSTs, we recognize that more research is needed in both the field and the laboratory to study the impact of PDSTs and externally attached tags in general on fish swimming performance and energy expenditure. This can help interpret the results from the field, but also aid developing more hydrodynamic tag shapes or improved attachment methods.


Anguilla; Migration; Tagging effect; External tagging; Data logger; Acoustic; Archival; Data storage tags

Published in

Animal Biotelemetry
2022, Volume: 10, number: 1, article number: 9