Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Anguilliformes
(Eels and morays) > Anguillidae
Etymology: Anguilla: Latin, anguilla, .-ae = eel (Ref. 45335); rostrata: From the words Anguilla-Latin for eel and rostrata, meaning long nose (Ref. 10294).
Environment / Climate / Range
Marine; freshwater; brackish; demersal; catadromous (Ref. 26938); depth range 0 - 464 m. Subtropical; 4°C - 25°C (Ref. 12468); 66°N - 7°N, 98°W - 21°W
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm ?, range 37 - 100 cm
Max length : 152 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 26938); 122.0 cm TL (female); common length : 50.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 3242); max. published weight: 7.3 kg (Ref. 4699); max. reported age: 43 years (Ref. 40922)
spines: 0. Head rather long; eyes small and placed well forward on head. Lips thick. Caudal vertebrae without transverse processes. Premaxillae not developed as distinct elements in adults. Frontal bones paired, not grown together. Pectoral girdle with 7 to 9 (up to 11 in the young) radial elements. Adults usually white or light-colored below and brownish to blue-black above, but coloration is variable; young with some yellow on the edges of the dorsal and anal fins (Ref. 30499). Caudal fin rounded, joined to dorsal and anal fins. Gill opening on side in front of lower half of well-developed pectoral fin; lower jaw longer than upper; 103-111 vertebrae (Ref. 26938).
Northwest to western Central Atlantic: Greenland south along the Atlantic coast of Canada and the USA to Panama, and throughout much of the West Indies south to Trinidad.
Occur in streams, rivers, muddy or silt-bottomed lakes (Ref. 5951); usually in permanent streams with continuous flow. Hide during the day in undercut banks and in deep pools near logs and boulders. Feed on larvae of Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Coleoptera, Trichoptera, and Lepidoptera, as well as gastropods, oligochaetes, amphipods, isopods, mysids, and fish from the families Percidae, Cyprinidae, Ictaluridae, Catostomidae and Anguillidae (Ref. 9593). Migrate in autumn to the Sargasso Sea to spawn (Ref. 3242). Sexual maturity occurs approximately in less than10 years and up to 40 years in freshwater (Ref. 57533). Larvae (transparent leptocephali shaped somewhat like a willow leaf) hatch and develop at sea to metamorphose into elvers in nearshore waters and estuaries (Ref. 57533). Adults are caught with eel pots and trot lines. Elvers and glass eels are caught with fine mesh fyke nets and dipnets. Catadromous species. (Ref. 26938). Maximum depth reported taken from Ref. 57178.
Undertakes migration in autumn to the Sargasso Sea where spawning is said to take place. Coloration changes with sexual maturation. Dorsal surface of the pectorals becomes dark, lateral line becomes prominent, eye diameter increases and visual pigments change, body takes on a silvery bronze coloration. Females are usually larger than males and migrate much farther upstream (Ref. 57533). Adults die after spawning (Ref. 30499).
Spawn at sea but growth occurs in estuaries or freshwater (Ref. 7135). Spawning grounds believed to be between 20° and 30°N and 60°and 75°W (Ref. 40916, 40917).
Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p. (Ref. 5723)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)
CITES (Ref. 94142)
Threat to humans
Fisheries: commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: public aquariums
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5000 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00087 (0.00070 - 0.00108), b=3.19 (3.14 - 3.24), based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 3.8 ±0.2 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (tm=3-6; Fec=5,000,000).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Very high vulnerability (83 of 100) .