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Moon and Earth’s magnetic field guide European eels on their epic migration

02 / 12 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Far out in a featureless sea, the light of the moon is a beacon for migrating eels. They’re aiming for coastal estuaries, gateways to freshwater rivers where they will live for decades. When visibility becomes poor, eels can read an estuary’s unique magnetic map to navigate upstream. New research led by Alessandro Cresci, a Ph.D. candidate in biological oceanography at the University of Miami in Florida, is highlighting two key stages in the migration of European eels (Anguilla anguilla), an IUCN Critically Endangered species. “There’s a lot of work on how eels respond to patchy stimuli like light,” Cresci said of past research. “But we wanted to look into more stable navigational cues.” Glass eels are one phase in the complex life history of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla). Figure adapted from Cresci et al. (2019a). The first study, published in a recent issue of Communications Biology, describes eel navigation using magnetic fields in brackish waters. The second, published in Royal Society Open Science, identifies lunar cues that guide eels at sea. European eels begin as leaf-shaped larvae riding the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic Ocean, from the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda to the continental shelf off western Europe. Over the two-year crossing, they metamorphose into transparent glass eels just 7 centimeters (3 inches) long. Hundreds of millions arrive each year at coastlines from Scandinavia to Morocco. Navigating up estuaries toward inland rivers, glass eels turn a camouflaging brown. They live for 5 to 30 years in the same river,…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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