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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 344:197-212 (2007)  -  DOI:

Species assemblages of leptocephali in the southwestern Sargasso Sea

Michael J. Miller1,*, James D. McCleave2

1Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Minamidai, Nakano, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan
2School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA

ABSTRACT: Catches of leptocephali of shelf and slope marine eels of the Chlopsidae, Congridae, Moringuidae, Muraenidae, and Ophichthidae collected during a survey in the southwestern Sargasso Sea in late September and early October 1984 were analyzed to learn about their reproductive ecology and larval transport. Sampling along a transect from the Florida Current (FC) out across the southwestern Sargasso Sea and in the Northwest Providence Channel (NWPC) of the Northern Bahamas enabled the evaluation of the larval distributions, abundances and size ranges, regional assemblage structure, and the apparent spawning areas of these marine eels. Distinctly different assemblages observed in the FC and NWPC included the congrid genera Heteroconger, Paraconger, Uroconger, and many ophichthid species, which were rare or absent offshore. Other taxa of congrids, chlopsids, muraenids and moringuids were present in all areas, but the smallest specimens of most taxa were only caught at the NWPC or FC stations. Multivariate analyses reflected higher richness and abundance in the FC and NWPC and also similar species compositions in offshore areas. The patterns of distribution of these leptocephali differed from those of anguillid, nettastomatid, and mesopelagic eel leptocephali collected in the same survey. These findings support the hypothesis that most taxa of marine eels spawn close to their adult habitats, and indicate that despite high biodiversity of marine eels in the Northern Bahamas, only some species of leptocephali appear to get transported far offshore by ocean currents.

KEY WORDS: Leptocephali · Larval distribution · Marine eels · Spawning area · Sargasso Sea · Northern Bahamas · Florida Current

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Cite this article as: Miller MJ, McCleave JD (2007) Species assemblages of leptocephali in the southwestern Sargasso Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 344:197-212.

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