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The duration of migration of Atlantic Anguilla larvae

Abstract : Oceanic larvae of the European (Anguilla anguilla) and American (A. rostrata) eels have to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the Sargasso Sea to European or North American coasts before entering continental habitats. In some European rivers, eel recruitment is now < 1% of levels in the 1980s. A better understanding of the effects of anthropogenic pressures and environmental fluctuations on eel larvae and subsequent recruitment is a prerequisite to build efficient management plans. The present paper provides insight into the critical oceanic phase of the eel life cycle with a focus on the duration of the larval migration whose estimates varies between 7 months and more than 2 years in both species. Does this range correspond to a natural variability in larval duration or does it stem from methodological artefacts? We first review the different methods used to estimate the duration of larval migration and critically describe their possible sources of misinterpretation. We then evaluate the consistency of these methods with the current knowledge about the ecology and physiology of eel larvae and the physical oceanography. While a moderate discrepancy in migration duration was found between methods for the American eel, the discrepancy was large in the European eel. In this species, otolith microstructure studies indicated migration durations between 7 and 9 months, while other methods pointed to durations of about 2 years. We show that estimates in favour of a long migration duration seem more robust to methodological caveats than methods estimating short durations of migration.
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Sylvain Bonhommeau, Martin Castonguay, Etienne Rivot, Richard Sabatié, Olivier Le Pape. The duration of migration of Atlantic Anguilla larvae. Fish and Fisheries, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 11 (3), pp.289-306. ⟨10.1111/j.1467-2979.2010.00362.x⟩. ⟨hal-00729630⟩



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