European Eel Life Cycle

European eel by: Felice Supino, Wikimedia Commons

European eel by: Felice Supino, Wikimedia Commons

Hi, I’m a European eel. I was born in the Sargasso Sea. The Sargasso Sea is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, due east of Bermuda. I use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, a sixth sense of sorts. When I swim, I sense subtle differences in the Earth’s electromagnetic field so I can sense where I am as a youngster and find the Gulf Stream and other currents. This way I can use the currents to hitch a ride to the west coast of Europe and North Africa.

Eel Life Cycle by: Salvor Gissuradottir, Wikimedia Commons

Eel Life Cycle by: Salvor Gissuradottir, Wikimedia Commons

As a youngster (leptocephali) I’m part of the plankton, the small plants and animals that make up the bottom of the food chain in the ocean. After 7-11 months (up to 3 years) I will become a glass eel. Then I will enter freshwater (or brackish, a combination of salty and freshwater) rivers and become an elver. Then as a yellow eel I will mature into an adult. I’ll spend 6-20 years here. Then I become a silver eel that will make the long journey of 3,107-3728 miles (5,000-6,000 km) back to the Sargasso Sea to breed.

In freshwater streams, yellow eels will eat invertebrates such as mollusks, crustaceans, and even slugs and worms from land! The yellow eels also eat fish, which they can scavenge.

Eels have been kept for 85-115 years in aquariums! Scientists estimate eels average 10-20 years in the wild.

Eels’ blood is poisonous, but their poison is killed by cooking.

American eels are also born in the Sargasso Sea, but they ride the currents to the east coast of North America.

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