American eels migrate a staggering 2400 km to reproduce, study finds.
After years and years of speculation, researchers have finally found solid evidence of American eels presence in the Sargasso Sea.
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It has been long believed that American eels migrate to the Sargasso Sea for reproduction. Eels in the larva stage had also been found in 1904. With over a century of research, there has been no instance when even a single adult eel had been spotted in this part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, researchers have been able to track their migratory route and suggested that eels actually travel a staggering 2,400 km, from the east coast of Canada across continental shelf into open ocean and finally into the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda.
To solve the mystery, researchers from Universite Laval attached satellite transmitters with 22 eels. The transmitters provided unique behavioral insight into the migration of this marine animal.
“Eight eels were successfully tracked to the open ocean off the continental shelf, including one tracked for 2,400 km to the northern limit of the spawning site in the Sargasso Sea. Our results represent the first direct evidence of adult Anguilla migrating to the Sargasso Sea.” Study reads.
The eels have been followed for over three years. The reconstructed paths indicate that most eels covered 1300 to 1700 km while the single eel, which headed straight into Sargasso Sea, travelled 2400 km. The eel was given the name ‘Star’ by the researchers.
This is the first large-scale study that has been successfully able to locate eels’ migratory route from coastline to spawning area in Sargasso Sea. Therefore study is an important step forward in understanding the migratory phase of American eels and the possible orientation mechanisms used by the species. The data also shows that eels adopt similar migratory paths and patterns. First they moved along the edges in shallow waters and then in deep waters towards sea.
"This points to the existence of a navigation mechanism probably based on magnetic field detection.” Professor Julian Dodson from Université Laval, Canada explained.
"Our data nonetheless shows that the eels don't follow the coastline the whole way, they can cover the route in just weeks, and they do go to the Sargasso Sea. We knew that millions of American eels migrated to reproduce, but no one had yet observed adults in the open ocean or the Sargasso Sea. For a scientist this was a fascinating mystery."
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The study was published in the journal Nature.