Smoked, fried or boiled - the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has always been a popular fish in Europe. Even though people have consumed it for millennia, the origin of the eel has long been shrouded in mystery. While the fish spend most of their lives in fresh and coastal waters, spawning and the birth of the larvae take place in the Sargasso Sea in the central Atlantic Ocean, about 4500 km away from the European coastlines. "Because the observation of eels in the Sargasso Sea is scarcely possible, some details of the life cycle are still unknown" says biologist Miguel Baltazar-Soares, from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.
In a multidisciplinary study recently published in the international journal "Current Biology", biologists, geneticists and theoretical oceanographers at GEOMAR, together with colleagues from Hamburg, London, Belfast and Antofagasta (Chile), discovered a relationship between ocean currents and the variation in eel recruitment.
The study is based on a latest generation ocean model developed in Kiel. Originally it was used to simulate the effects of melting Greenland glaciers on the North Atlantic. "It has a resolution approximately ten times larger than the conventional ocean and climate models," explains Prof. Dr. Arne Biastoch, a theoretical oceanographer at GEOMAR. "The new model allows us to understand even small-scale changes in the ocean, so we came up with the idea of using it for a simulation of eel migrations," adds Miguel Baltazar-Soares, lead author of the new study.
The model simulation was run for 45 years, and in each of these years, the researchers seeded the Sargasso Sea with 8 million tiny drifting particles. "They represent the eel larvae which, for the first few years of their life, mainly drift with the currents," says biologist Dr. Christophe Eizaguirre from GEOMAR, who initiated the study. External factors, like wind and weather conditions, were the same in the
|Contact: Jan Steffen|
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)