Species encyclopedia

European Eel

Anguilla anguilla


The adults live in waterways and ponds. When they reach the age of 10 years, they undertake a long reproductive migration. At that point, they turn black with a silvery underbelly. They stop feeding until they reach the sea around September or October. Eels in ponds, pools and lakes may crawl through grass at night to get to the closest rivers and then the sea. To orient themselves, European eels use the salinity of marine currents and the low level electrical currents produced by the Earth’s magnetism.


They reach sexual maturity at the end of their migration in the Sargasso Sea off the shores of Bermuda. They die after laying their eggs.

In March or April, those eggs hatch into 1.5 cm long transparent ribbons of larvae shaped like willow leaves. The larvae migrate toward the European coastline, which they reach 8 or 9 months later. As they approach the coast, the larvae metamorphose into elvers, young transparent eels measuring 6 mm in length. They invade the estuaries and stay in that brackish water until the summertime. Some of them then swim up waterways while others remain on the coast.

European eels are fished at every stage of their development, from the elver to the adult eel. As the species has undergone a significant decline,
it is now considered as endangered, so protective measures were enacted in 2009.



Species encyclopedia

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