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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 475:177-190 (2013)  -  DOI:

Oceanic migration behaviour of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu

Robert Schabetsberger1,*, Finn Økland2, Kim Aarestrup3, Donna Kalfatak4, Ursula Sichrowsky5, Meelis Tambets6, Giorgio Dall’Olmo7, Roland Kaiser1, Peter I. Miller7

1Department of Cell Biology, University of Salzburg, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
2The Norwegian Institute of Nature Research, 7047 Trondheim, Norway
3Denmark Technical University, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark
4Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation, Port Vila, Vanuatu
5Department of Limnology, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
6Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu, Mäealuse 14, 12618 Tallinn, Estonia
7Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK

ABSTRACT: Information on oceanic migrations and spawning areas of tropical Pacific freshwater eels (genus Anguilla) is very limited. Lake Letas and its single outflowing river, Mbe Solomul on Gaua Island, Vanuatu, were surveyed for large migrating individuals. Twenty-four Anguilla marmorata (87 to 142 cm), 39 A. megastoma (50 to 131 cm), and 3 A. obscura (119 to 126 cm) were caught. Seven individuals were tagged with pop-up satellite transmitters and released offshore. One A. marmorata migrated 843 km towards the South Equatorial Current. The tag surfaced only 330 km from the point where the smallest leptocephalus has been captured so far. Tags on A. megastoma and A. obscura popped up within the archipelago. All 3 species exhibited pronounced diel vertical migrations. Eels descended from around 200 m nighttime depth, to 320 (A. obscura), 650 (A. marmorata), and 750 m (A. megastoma) during the day. A clear impact of the lunar cycle on the upper limit of migration depths was found in A. marmorata (full moon: 230 m, new moon: 170 m). These behaviours may be explained as a trade-off between predator avoidance and the necessity to maintain a sufficiently high metabolism for migration.

KEY WORDS: Anguilla · Catadromy · Diel vertical migration · Predator avoidance · Satellite telemetry

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Cite this article as: Schabetsberger R, Økland F, Aarestrup K, Kalfatak D and others (2013) Oceanic migration behaviour of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 475:177-190.

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