The Anguilla spp. migration problem: 40 million years of evolution and two millennia of speculation

J Fish Biol. 2012 Jul;81(2):365-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.03373.x.


Anguillid eels Anguilla spp. evolved between 20 and 40 million years ago and possess a number of remarkable migratory traits that have fascinated scientists for millennia. Despite centuries of effort, the spawning areas and migrations are known only for a few species. Even for these species, information on migratory behaviour is remarkably sketchy. The latest knowledge on the requirements for successful migration and field data on the migrations of adults and larvae are presented, how experiments on swimming efficiency have progressed the understanding of migration are highlighted and the challenges of swimming at depth considered. The decline of Anguilla spp. across the world is an ongoing concern for fisheries and environmental managers. New developments in the knowledge of eel migration will, in addition to solving a centuries old mystery, probably help to identify how this decline might be halted or even reversed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anguilla / physiology*
  • Animal Migration*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Swimming / physiology