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Satellite Tags Map Mysterious Migratory Routes of Eels

Jan 13, 2013 04:32 AM EST

A new study has shed light on the migratory routes of European eels.

European eels, living from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, travel hundreds of miles across the Atlantic to reach the Sargasso Sea when they spawn. The Sargasso Sea is a vast stretch of ocean water in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, where water is deep blue in color and its clarity is better than the surrounding waters, reports LiveScience.

Until now, the migratory routes of the eels have remained a mystery, as there was no evidence of eggs or adult eels found in the Sargasso Sea.

But now scientists have resolved the mystery by tracking the migration route of European eels. Researchers attached satellite tags to 600 eels from different parts of Europe to map their migratory route, as part of the EU-funded research project called eeliad.

They found that the eels were taking a different migratory route unlike what was previously thought, reports, a nonprofit media agency.

"We could track the satellite tags as far away as the Azores. This suggests that the eels take a different route to the Sargasso Sea than previously thought. It seems as if they're saving energy by hitching a ride on the Azores Current," one of the lead authors of the study Kim Aarestrup, a senior scientist at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), told

Using genetic data, the research team also found that the eels randomly mate, which suggests that spawning happens only in the Sargasso Sea.

"Our genetic research showed that the eels living all across Europe randomly mate. This is very unusual for animals that are so widely distributed. It strongly indicates that the European eels are spawning in the Sargasso Sea and no other places," Thomas Damm Als, a research scientist at DTU, told the media agency.

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