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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 646:1-12 (2020)  -  DOI:

Tracking the marine migration routes of South Pacific silver eels

Yu-Lin K. Chang1, Giorgio Dall’Olmo2, Robert Schabetsberger3,*

1Application Laboratory, Japan Agency of Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 236-0001 Yokohama, Japan
2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
3University of Salzburg, Department of Biosciences, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: It is still a mystery how catadromous eels find their way through the seemingly featureless open ocean to their spawning areas. Three catadromous Pacific eels (2 Anguilla marmorata, 1 A. megastoma) from the Archipelago of Vanuatu were tagged with pop-up satellite archival transmitters, and their migration tracks towards their presumed spawning area approximately 870 km northeast of the point of release were reconstructed in order to evaluate their movements in relation to oceanographic conditions. We used the timing of diel vertical migrations to derive the eels’ positions. The 2 A. marmorata exhibited steep-angled turns resulting in a zig-zag migration path along the east-west axis, while the A. megastoma took a relatively straight course towards the presumed spawning area. They migrated with a speed over ground of 21-23 km d-1. In this region, the eastward flow of the South Equatorial Counter Current (SECC, ~5°-10°S) separates the westward flowing South Equatorial Current (SEC; ~0°-5°S and 10°-18°S) into 2 branches. During shallower nighttime migration depths around 150 m, eels crossed a variable flow field through the southern branch of the westward SEC with westward propagating mesoscale eddies and the eastward SECC, but stayed south of the stronger northern branch of the SEC, possibly increasing retention time of larvae within this area. The eels headed towards a tongue of high-salinity Subtropical Underwater (STUW). The eels did not move beyond a salinity front of 35.9-36.0 at a depth of 100-200 m, which may have provided cues for orientation towards the spawning area.

KEY WORDS: Anguilla · Migration routes · Diel vertical migration · Satellite telemetry · Spawning

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Cite this article as: Chang YLK, Dall’Olmo G, Schabetsberger R (2020) Tracking the marine migration routes of South Pacific silver eels. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 646:1-12.

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