Fish Fry Day: American Eel Caught in the Act (of Migration!)

Happy Fish Fry Day! We promise to get back to our “Fishes of Wisconsin” challenge soon, but breaking news has forced it’s way into our news cycle – for the first time ever, scientists have tracked the American eel’s migration to its spawning grounds.

The American eel. Image: USFWS
The American eel. Image: USFWS

The American eel is awesome, as we’ve explained before.  And now we know that is is even more awesome than previously believed, after researchers chronicled the breathtaking journey of a single female eel that swam more than 1,500 miles at depths sometimes exceeding 2,000 feet. We’ll let National Geographic take it from here:

Epic Eel Migration Mapped for the First Time

By Jason Bittel, National Geographic, Oct. 27, 2015

American eel lifecycle. Image: Virginia Institute for Marine Science
American eel lifecycle. Image: Virginia Institute for Marine Science

Scientists know that American eels spend most of their adult lives inland or close to the shore, because for thousands of years, that’s where people have caught them. And we know the animals spawn in the open ocean, because that’s where we find their tiny, transparent larvae. But despite decades of searching, no adult American eel (Anguilla rostrata) has ever been spotted migrating across the hundreds of miles of ocean between the animals’ adult haunts and their ancestral spawning areas.
That is, until now.
A team of Canadian scientists used satellite tags to track an adult female eel from the coast of Nova Scotia to the northern limits of the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic—a journey of more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers). The team published their results Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
“It’s pretty exciting,” says Julian Dodson, a biologist at Laval University in Quebec City and coauthor of the new study. “We’re beginning to catch a glimpse of what’s going on for the first time.”
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