European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) – Profile, Facts, Traits

European eel
(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

The European eel, the scientific name Anguilla anguilla is a species of eel, a snake-like, catadromous fish. The European eel usually rounds 60–80 cm (2.0–2.6 ft) and infrequently attain greater than 1 m (three ft three in), however, they can attain a size of as much as 1.5 m (Four ft 11 in) in distinctive circumstances.

European Eel profile

The European eel has been a necessary source of meals each as adults (together with the well-known jellied eels of East London) and as glass eels.

European eel fishing utilizing basket traps has been of great financial worth in lots of river estuaries on the western seaboard of Europe.

Whereas the species’ lifespan within the wild has not been decided, captive specimens of European eel have lived over 80 years.

A specimen often called “the Brantevik Eel” lived for 155 years within the property of a household dwelling in Brantevik, a fishing village in southern Sweden.


The geographic range of adult European eels contains the English Channel and coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern Atlantic Ocean from Iceland to Mauritania.

Their range additionally encompasses the Baltic and North Seas, in addition to all accessible continental or coastal hydro systems. In the early spring months, European eels migrate to the Sargasso sea for breeding.

Larvae are hatched from the Sargasso Sea and will also be discovered alongside the coast of Europe. Silver (juvenile) stage eels of Anguilla anguilla dwell in tributaries alongside the European coast.


Depending on the life stage of the person eel, European eels will be present in marine, freshwater, and brackish aquatic environments. Typically, the European eel is present in depths of 0-700 m, most frequently on the ground of the ocean or river during which it’s residing.


The look of European eels varies significantly relying on the life stage. As leptocephali, European eels are small, leaflike, and transparent.

After metamorphosing into the silver stage, European eels seem silvery in color with elongated dorsal and anal fins which can be steady with the caudal fin. European eels lack pelvic fins.

Upon full sexual maturation, European eels develop enlarged eyes, lose their potential to feed, and switch green, yellow, or brownish in color.

Female eels are typically considerably bigger than males. The largest recorded mass of a feminine eel is 6.599 g. The most printed size of a European eel was 133 cm.

European Eel (Anguilla anguilla)

Conservation standing

The European eel is a critically endangered species. Because of the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe are assumed to have declined by around 90% (probably even 98%).

Contributing elements embrace overfishing, parasites comparable to Anguillicola Crassus, obstacles to migration comparable to hydroelectric dams, and pure modifications within the North Atlantic oscillation, Gulf Stream, and North Atlantic drift.

The latest work suggests polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) air pollution could also be an element within the decline.

TRAFFIC is introducing traceability and legality methods all through commerce change to manage the decline and encourage a U-turn on the species. The European eel species is listed in Appendix II of the CITES Conference.

Sustainable consumption

In 2010, Greenpeace Worldwide added the European eel to its “seafood crimson checklist”, and the Sustainable Eel Group launched the Sustainable Eel Normal.

European Eel (Anguilla anguilla)


European eels are basically a solitary species. Although quite a few eels will be present in a single location, there is no such thing as proof that any type of education is present.

European eels migrate to varied areas throughout totally different phases of their life. They transport themselves by actively swimming with ocean currents. European eels are lively primarily throughout the day.


European eels sense the atmosphere utilizing their sense of style. They have been proven to find necessary amino acids through chemotaxis. European eels additionally make the most of olfaction, likely for homing functions. There is little if any documentation of social communication between eels.

Food Habits

European eels have fully totally different diets throughout totally different life phases. No food contents have ever been found within the guts of leptocephali, subsequently, their diet is unknown.

Glass eels eat insect larvae, useless fish, and small crustaceans. Adult eels have a reasonably broad diet and eat freshwater, marine, or terrestrial fauna.

Their major meal source is aquatic invertebrates, however, they’ll eat basically any meals they will find– even useless organisms. European eels are reported to leap out of the water through the winter and feed on terrestrial invertebrates.

European Eel (Anguilla anguilla)

To additional the analysis, the PRO-EEL mission, led by DTU Aqua and involving a number of analysis institutes elsewhere in Denmark (College of Copenhagen and others), Norway (Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Meals Analysis and others), the Netherlands (Leiden College and others), Belgium (Ghent College), France (French Nationwide Heart for Scientific Analysis and others), Spain (ICTA at Polytechnic College of Valencia) and Tunisia (Nationwide Institute of Marine Sciences and Applied sciences), was began in 2010.

By 2014, the European eel larvae at their services usually survive 20–22 days, however, the full life cycle has nonetheless not been accomplished in captivity.


The lifespan of European eels relies on maturation time as a result of as soon as eels mature and spawn, they die. European eels can spawn as early as 7 years old. The most-reported age of a European eel within the wild is 85 years.


Upon reaching sexual maturity, European eels migrate from freshwater streams back to the Sargasso Sea as a way to spawn and die within the late winter months to the early summer months.

European eel males launch sperm into the water during which feminine European eels have already laid eggs, thereby fertilizing the eggs. Very little is thought concerning the precise spawning mechanism, and the time to hatching is variable.

European eels spawn through the late winter to early spring months. There is little information on their reproduction, however, since European eels are intently associated with Japanese eels, Anguilla japonica, comparable breeding patterns is perhaps assumed.

Female A. japonica can lay from 2,000,000 to 10,000,000 eggs however die quickly after spawning. Eel larvae are impartial of the time of birth till the time of loss of life.

Because the European eel inhabitants have been falling for a while, a number of tasks have been beginning.

In 1997, Innovative Netwerk within the Netherlands initiated a mission place they tried to get European eel to breed in captivity by simulating the 6,500 km (4,000 mi) journey from Europe to the Sargasso Sea with a swimming machine for the fish.

The primary to realize some success was DTU Aqua, part of the Technical College of Denmark. Via a mixture of recent and saltwater, in addition to hormones, they had been capable of breed it in captivity in 2006 and make the larvae survive for 4.5 days after hatching.

By 2007, DTU Aqua scientists had been capable of set a brand new report on the place the larvae survived for 12 days by feeding the mom eel with a particular arginine-enriched weight loss plan.

At this age the content material of the larval yolk sac has been used, the mouth and digestive channel have developed, and the European eel requires feeding.

Makes an attempt with numerous substances failed. A deepwater sampling of the presumed habitat of larval European eel within the Sargasso Sea was carried out by the Galathea three expedition in 2006—07, within the hope of unveiling the doubtless feeding choice on the early stage.

Their outcomes indicated that the European eel feed on numerous planktonic organisms, however particularly microscopic jellyfish.

A follow-up expedition was carried out by DTU’s personal analysis ship to the Sargasso Sea area in 2014.

European eels make investments a considerable quantity of energy in reproduction and die shortly thereafter.

Consequently, the one useful resource that feminine eels give to their offspring is a sufficient meal source to final the egg till hatching. After hatching, the larvae are fully impartial and capable of finding meals.

Life historical past

A lot of the European eel’s life historical past was a thriller for hundreds of years, as fishermen by no means caught something they may establish as a younger eel.

Not like much different migrating fish, eels start their life cycle within the ocean and spend most of their lives in recent inland water, or brackish coastal water, returning to the ocean to spawn after which die.

European eel

Within the early 1900s, Danish researcher Johannes Schmidt recognized the Sargasso Sea because of the most probably spawning grounds for European eels.

The European eel larvae (leptocephali) drift in direction of Europe in a 300-day migration.

When approaching the European coast, the larvae metamorphose right into a clear larval stage known as “glass eel”, enter estuaries, and plenty of beginning migrating upstream.

After coming into their continental habitat, the glass eels metamorphose into elvers, miniature variations of the grownup eels.

Because the eel grows, it turns into often called a “yellow eel” because of the brownish-yellow shade of their sides and stomach.

After 5–20 years in recent or brackish water, the eels change into sexually mature, their eyes develop bigger, their flanks change into silver, and their bellies white in shade.

At this stage, European eel is often called “silver eels”, they usually start their migration again to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

Magnetoreception has additionally been reported within the European eel by no less than one examine, and could also be used for navigation.

Ecosystem Roles

European eels are each a food source and a predator of organisms of their ecosystem. They are consumed by birds and enormous predatory fish.

European eels additionally act like a bunch for the nematode Aguillicola crassus which infects the swim bladders of European eels.

European eels distribute vitamins between marine and freshwater ecosystems as a result of they migrate between these habitats.

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