Eels Seven Thousand Leagues under the Sea Ethology

An obstacle in its way? It comes out of the water, avoids it by crawling or even climbing over it

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An obstacle in its way? It comes out of the water, avoids it by crawling or even climbing over it
Since no tag reached the Sargasso Sea, these questions are still unanswered today. Swedish fish went around Scotland before plunging towards South, like the Irish and the French ones. But they all tripped on the Azores, if they didn’t die sooner. Scientists obtained key information on the swimming profiles of eels and … pilot whales, these humpback dolphins which, as we discovered in the process, were crazy about anguillidae (fresh water eels). However, the end of the route remains unknown. In 2013, Elsa Amilhat and her colleagues from Perpignan recreated this experiment by using eight specimens from the South of France. For the first time, they proved that eels from the Mediterranean passed the Gibraltar and started their journey into the Atlantic. But they didn’t reach the Azores.

Then, where do the European eels go? To the Sargasso Sea, as stated by Johannes Schmidt? Without a doubt. Again, in 2013, a German team found European larvae in the mythical sea. Still, no trace of egg-laying fish. Actually, out of the 17 species of eels, only one has revealed its secrets. After eighteen years of research and eleven campaigns, in 2009, Professor Katsumi Tsukamoto, a biologist at the University of Tokyo (Japan) found Japanese eel eggs and nineteen adults near the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Eric Feunteun dreams of emulating his Japanese mentor and proving the great Schmidt wrong. Chemical analyses of the otoliths of European eels have indeed indicated the presence of manganese. “This is a volcanic element. Or, there is no such thing in the Sargasso Sea,” the biologist said enthusiastically. And what if the “good” eggs, those whose fish manage to end up on our shores, hatched 2,000 km further east, above the reliefs of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge? “That would make everyone agree, confirming both models and analyses, he continues. There is only one thing missing: the eels.” A snag that Eric Feunteun is hoping to easily remove. He has just submitted a funding request for a sea campaign to be carried out in 2018.

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