name = European eel
image_width = 250px
phylum = Chordata
genus = "Anguilla"
species = "A. anguilla"
binomial = "Anguilla anguilla"
binomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1758)The European eel, "Anguilla anguilla", [ITIS|ID=161128|taxon=Anguilla anguilla|year=2006|date=11 March] is a snake-like, facultatively catadromous fish, which can reach in exceptional cases a length of 1½ m, but is normally much smaller, about 60–80 cm, and rarely more than 1 m. They are generally believed to spawn in the
Sargasso Seaand the larvae ( Leptocephalus) migrate towards Europein a three-year-long migration. As glass eels they reach the coasts of Europe and enter estuaries. Before entering fresh water, the glass eels metamorphose into elvers. They spend most of their lives in freshwater, although recent studies on the related Japanese eels ("Anguilla japonica") show that some populations of that species never migrate into freshwater, but spend their lives in marine or estuarine habitats. Those eels living in freshwater undergo changes in pigmentation; their bellies turn yellow. It is assumed that the yellow-coloring acts as a protection from predators as it makes it harder to visually detect the animals. The slimy coating of the eel is thought to protect the fish against changes in salinity. Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is thought to have declined by around 90% (possibly even 98%). It is unclear whether this is part of a normal long term cycle, or whether this reflects a decline in eel numbers generally. Potential causes include overfishing, parasites such as " Anguillicola crassus", river barriers such as hydroelectric plants, and natural changes in the North Atlantic oscillation, Gulf Streamand the North Atlantic drift. Recent work suggests that PCB pollutionmay be a major factor in the decline [cite journal | quotes=no| title=PCBs are killing off eels |url=http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg18925423.000-pcbs-are-killing-off-eels.html |journal= New Scientist|volume=2452 |pages=6 |year=2006| doi=10.1007/s00114-005-0080-z).| doi_brokendate=2008-06-28] .
Eels have been important sources of food both as adults (including the famous
jellied eelsof East London) and as elvers. Elver fishing using basket traps has been of significant economic value in many river estuaries on the western seaboard of Europe.
Eel life history
* [http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=35&genusname=Anguilla&speciesname=anguilla More info at fishbase]
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