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Empirical observations of the spawning migration of European eels: The long and dangerous road to the Sargasso Sea

Righton, David and Westerberg, Håkan and Feunteun, Eric and Okland, Finn and Gargan, Patrick and Amilhat, Elsa and Metcalfe, Julian and Lobon-Cervia, Javier and Sjöberg, Niklas and Janek, Simon and Acou, Anthony and Vedor, Marisa and Walker, Alan and Trancart, Thomas and Brämick, Uwe and Aarestrup, Kim (2016). Empirical observations of the spawning migration of European eels: The long and dangerous road to the Sargasso Sea. Science Advances. 2, 1-15
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1501694

Abstract

The spawning migration of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) to the Sargasso Sea is one of the greatest animal migrations. However, the duration and route of the migration remain uncertain. Using fishery data from 20 rivers across Europe, we show that most eels begin their oceanic migration between August and December. We used electronic tagging techniques to map the oceanic migration from eels released from four regions in Europe. Of 707 eels tagged, we received 206 data sets. Many migrations ended soon after release because of predation events, but we were able to reconstruct in detail the migration routes of >80 eels. The route extended from western mainland Europe to the Azores region, more than 5000 km toward the Sargasso Sea. All eels exhibited diel vertical migrations, moving from deeper water during the day into shallower water at night. The range of migration speeds was 3 to 47 kmday-1. Using data from larval surveys in the Sargasso Sea, we show that spawning likely begins in December and peaks in February. Synthesizing these results, we show that the timing of autumn escapement and the rate of migration are inconsistent with the century-long held assumption that eels spawn as a single reproductive cohort in the spring time following their escapement. Instead, we suggest that European eels adopt a mixed migratory strategy, with some individuals able to achieve a rapid migration, whereas others arrive only in time for the following spawning season. Our results have consequences for eel management.

Authors/Creators:Righton, David and Westerberg, Håkan and Feunteun, Eric and Okland, Finn and Gargan, Patrick and Amilhat, Elsa and Metcalfe, Julian and Lobon-Cervia, Javier and Sjöberg, Niklas and Janek, Simon and Acou, Anthony and Vedor, Marisa and Walker, Alan and Trancart, Thomas and Brämick, Uwe and Aarestrup, Kim
Title:Empirical observations of the spawning migration of European eels: The long and dangerous road to the Sargasso Sea
Series/Journal:Science Advances (2375-2548)
Year of publishing :2016
Volume:2
Page range:1-15
Number of Pages:14
Publisher:American Association for the Advancement of Science
ISSN:2375-2548
Language:English
Publication Type:Journal article
Refereed:Yes
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Published version
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:M Aquatic sciences and fisheries > M40 Aquatic ecology
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 106 Biological Sciences (Medical to be 3 and Agricultural to be 4) > Zoology
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 106 Biological Sciences (Medical to be 3 and Agricultural to be 4) > Ecology
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 401 Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries > Fish and Aquacultural Science
Keywords:eel, migration, European eel, Anguilla anguilla
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-e-4138
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-e-4138
ID Code:14266
Faculty:NJ - Fakulteten för naturresurser och jordbruksvetenskap
Department:(NL, NJ) > Department of Aquatic Resources
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:28 Apr 2017 07:46
Metadata Last Modified:01 Aug 2017 13:09

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