How fast can the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) larvae cross the Atlantic Ocean?

Type Article
Date 2009-10
Language English
Author(s) Bonhommeau SylvainORCID1, Blanke Bruno2, Treguier Anne-Marie3, Grima Nicolas2, Rivot Etienne1, Vermard YouenORCID1, Greiner Eric4, Le Pape Olivier1
Affiliation(s) 1 : INRA Agrocampus Ouest Ecol & Sante Ecosyst, Lab Ecol Halieut, UMR 985, AGROCAMPUS OUEST, F-35042 Rennes, France.
2 : IFREMER, CNRS, IRD UBO, UFR Sci & Tech,Lab Phys Oceans, F-29238 Brest 3, France.
3 : IFREMER, CNRS, IRD UBO, Lab Phys Oceans, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
4 : GIP Mercator Ocean, F-31526 Ramonville St Agne, France.
Source Fisheries Oceanography (1054-6006) (Wiley / Blackwell), 2009-10 , Vol. 18 , N. 6 , P. 371-385
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2419.2009.00517.x
WOS© Times Cited 47
Keyword(s) Sargasso Sea, Migration duration, Leptocephali, Lagrangian modelling, Gulf Stream, Fractals, Anguilla
Abstract The migration duration of European eel (Anguilla anguilla) larvae (leptocephali) from the spawning areas in the Sargasso Sea to the European continental shelf remains highly controversial, with estimates varying from 6 months to more than 2 yr. We estimated the fastest migration period and the shortest distance travelled by eel larvae by simulating Lagrangian particles released in the Sargasso Sea and by simulating a range of larval behaviours (fixed-depth drift, vertical diurnal migration and active-depth selection to maximize current velocity). This enabled us to compute (i) a passive drift speed, and (ii) a hypothetic swimming speed needed for European eel larvae to cross the Atlantic in 6 months (i.e., the migration duration estimated from otolith daily growth increments). Our results show that the minimum travel time for an eel larva that is passively drifting was 10 months and 3 days. Active behaviours (vertical diurnal migration and rheotaxis) paradoxically increased the migration period. We found that for leptocephali to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 6 months, they would need to swim a minimum of 3.4 body lengths per second for 8200 km. No larvae have been observed with such swimming capabilities. These results provide evidence that leptocephali cannot cross the Atlantic in 6 months.
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