Sunday, August 2, 2009

European eel

The European eel has a long, snake-like body without pelvic fins. It has small scales, which are deeply embedded in the skin so much so as to be virtually invisible. Its extremely long dorsal and anal fins merge with the caudal fin and thus form a continuous edging to the whole of its body. It spawns in the Atlantic Ocean in the region of the Sargasso Sea, cast of the Bermudas and Bahamas. The larvae differ considerably from the adult fish as they look like transparent willow leaves.

For about three years they are slowly carried by the Gulf Stream towards the European continent, where they change into minute, snake-like elvers. Young eels have dark green or brown-black backs and their bellies and sides arc yellowish or white. The females then travel upriver, while the males remain in the river estuaries. At the start of their. breeding migration the adult fish have large eyes, shiny, metal-coloured sides and a silvery white belly. The females live in freshwater for twelve years or more and then return to the Atlantic Ocean, where after spawning they are believed to die.

The European eel lives close to the river bed under roots and in other hideouts, only becoming active at night. Many travel short distances overland (usually on wet nights) to get to isolated ponds. They arc usually 100 to 150 cm long and weigh 4 kg, although in exceptional cases they grow to 2 m in length and achieve a weight of 7 kg. Maximum size and weight: 2 m, 7 kg.

Identifying characteristics: Snake-like body; no pelvic fins. Dorsal, caudal and anal fins form a continuous fin edging. Minute scales deeply embedded in skin

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