Upon reaching sexual maturity, European eels migrate from freshwater streams back to the Sargasso Sea in order to spawn and die in the late winter months to the early summer months. European eel males release sperm into the water in which female European eels have already laid eggs, thereby fertilizing the eggs (Horie et al., 2004). Very little is known about the actual spawning mechanism, and time to hatching is variable.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
European eels spawn during the late winter to early spring months. There is little information on their reproduction, but since European eels are closely related to Japanese eels, Anguilla japonica, similar breeding patterns might be assumed. Female A. japonica can lay from 2,000,000 to 10,000,000 eggs, but die soon after spawning (Deelder, 1970). Eel larvae are independent from time of birth until time of death.
Breeding interval: European eels breed only once during their lifetime. Once spawning is complete, European eels die .
Breeding season: European eels spawn in late winter to early spring.
Range number of offspring: 2,000,000 to 10,000,000.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 to 20 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 12 years.
Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); broadcast (group) spawning; oviparous
European eels invest a substantial amount of energy in reproduction, and die shortly thereafter (Deelder, 1970). Consequently, the only resource that female eels give to their offspring is enough food source to last the egg until hatching. After hatching, the larvae are completely independent and able to find food (Lecomte-Finiger, 1994).
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning)
- Lecomte-Finiger, R. 1994. The Early Life of the European Eel. Nature, 370: 424-425.
- Okamura, A., H. Zhang, T. Utoh, A. Akazawa, Y. Yamada, N. Horie, N. Mikawa, S. Tanaka, H. Oka. 2004. Artificial hybrid between Anguilla anguilla and A. japonica. Journal of Fish Biology, 64/5: 1450.
- Deelder, C. 1970. Synopsis of biological data of the eel Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus, 1758). FAO Fish. Synop., 80: 68.