Mystery migrations: the first direct observations of American eels’ path to the Sargasso Sea

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A new study by Ocean Tracking Network researchers documents the first direct observations of American eel migrations to spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

OTN principal investigators, Julian Dodson (Université Laval) and Martin Castonguay (DFO), along with OTNers, Mélanie Béguer-Pon, Shiliang Shan, Kyoko Ohashi (Dalhousie University), and José Benchetrit (Université Laval) tracked American eels from sites in Atlantic Canada and Québec to establish migration routes and environmental conditions that may impact eels’ growth.  

After over a century of research has failed to catch a single adult in the open ocean, most information concerning their spawning migration remains a complete mystery.

Pop-up satellite tags (pictured above) have provided the first data on migratory paths in two distinct phases, recording the movements of 28 tagged eels (38 eels tagged in total) in the ocean for almost two months over distances up to 2,400 kilometres.

Eels’ journey is fraught with danger: predation by sharks (observed during the 2013 study year) and commercial harvests that can fetch up to $2,000 per pound are just some of the hazards they face before reaching open ocean.

Filling this knowledge gap is very important for both research and management objectives, especially in a context of the precarious status of the species.

Read the feature article via The Conversation
Read the full paper (Nature Communications)
> Watch a video

Congratulations to the team! Researchers Shiliang Shan, Julian Dodson, Martin Castonguay, Melanie Beguer-Pon, and Kyoko Ohashi hold a tagged American eel before release off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, earlier in October.                                              (Photo courtesy of Melanie Beguer)

 

Related links:

> Canadian eel tracked on 2,400-kilometre migration to Sargasso Sea (CBC)
Epic Eel Migration Mapped for the First Time (National Geographic)
Scientists finally reveal mysterious migration of American eels (ScienceMag)

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