MEPS 521:171-187 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11138

Genetic and migratory evidence for sympatric spawning of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu

Robert Schabetsberger1,*, Finn Økland2, Donna Kalfatak3, Ursula Sichrowsky4, Meelis Tambets5, Kim Aarestrup6, Chrysoula Gubili7,10, Jane Sarginson7, Belgees Boufana7, Robert Jehle7, Giorgio Dall’Olmo8, Michael J. Miller9, Alexander Scheck1, Roland Kaiser1, Graham Quartly

1University of Salzburg, Department of Cell Biology, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
2The Norwegian Institute of Nature Research, 7047 Trondheim, Norway
3Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation, Port Vila, Vanuatu
4University of Innsbruck, Institute of Ecology, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
5University of Tartu, Estonian Marine Institute, 12618 Tallinn, Estonia
6Technical University of Denmark, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark
7School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT, UK
8Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, PL1 3DH, UK
9College of Bioresource Sciences, Nihon University, Kanagawa 52-0880, Japan
10Present address: Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, 69067-375, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The spawning areas of tropical anguillid eels in the South Pacific are poorly known, and more information about their life histories is needed to facilitate conservation. We genetically characterized 83 out of 84 eels caught on Gaua Island (Vanuatu) and tagged 8 eels with pop-up satellite transmitters. Based on morphological evidence, 32 eels were identified as Anguilla marmorata, 45 as A. megastoma and 7 as A. obscura. Thirteen of these eels possessed a mitochondrial DNA sequence (control region, 527 bp) or nuclear haplotype (GTH2b, 268 bp) conflicting with their species designation. These individuals also had multi-locus genotypes (6 microsatellite loci) intermediate between the species, and 9 of these eels further possessed heterozygote genotypes at species-diagnostic nuclear single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We classified these individuals as possibly admixed between A. marmorata and A. megastoma. One A. marmorata and one A. megastoma migrated 634 and 874 km, respectively, towards the border between the South Equatorial Current and the South Equatorial Counter Current. Both species descended from around 200 m depth at night to 750 m during the day. Lunar cycle affected the upper limit of migration depths of both species. The tags remained attached for 3 and 5 mo and surfaced <300 km from the pop-up location of a previously tagged A. marmorata. A salinity maximum at the pop-up locations corresponding to the upper nighttime eel migration depths may serve as a seamark of the spawning area. The similar pop-up locations of both species and the evidence for admixture suggest that these tropical eels share a sympatric spawning area.


KEY WORDS: Admixture · Anguilla · Diel vertical migration · Satellite telemetry · Spawning


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Cite this article as: Schabetsberger R, Økland F, Kalfatak D, Sichrowsky U and others (2015) Genetic and migratory evidence for sympatric spawning of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 521:171-187. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11138

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