Physiology

Eel fat stores are enough to reach the Sargasso

Abstract

It has long been assumed that the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) migrates to the Sargasso Sea — a region of the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and the West Indies — to spawn1,2,3. During the past decade, however, the number of glass eels has inexplicably dropped4, and it has been suggested that a shortage of fat stores in adults, resulting from diminished food resources for juveniles in inland waters, may prevent the starving silver eels from reaching the spawning grounds4,5,6. But we find that the energetic cost of the 6,000-km migration is actually quite low, with 60% of the fat store remaining available for the developing gonads.

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Figure 1: Oxygen consumption of a silver eel (1.5 kg, 90 cm long), swimming at half a body-length per second, measured continuously between 90 and 80% air saturation.

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van Ginneken, V., van den Thillart, G. Eel fat stores are enough to reach the Sargasso . Nature 403, 156–157 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35003110

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