American Eel

Anguilla rostrata

photo of American Eel
Image by Clinton & Charles Robertson from Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Physical: American Eels have a unique snake-like shape and vary in coloration from green-brown to yellow-brown. Dorsal (back), anal (underside), and caudal (tail) fins are all continuous and connected. The mouths are large and the lower jaw is longer than the upper. Adult females grow to 4 feet, males to 2.5 feet.

Juvenile American Eel.
Juvenile American Eel

Habitat: A. rostrata is catadromous (live in freshwater rivers and spawn in the ocean). For this reason, the eel can be found in fresh and coastal waters throughout North America and Northern South America.

Feeding: American Eels are nocturnally active omnivores, feeding at night on insects, mollusks, crustaceans, worms and other fish.

Breeding: Sexually mature male and female travel out of the bay to the Sargasso Sea, an area East of the Bahamas. They spawn there and die afterward. After the larvae hatch in the Sargasso Sea, they make their way to the estuaries after a year. At this point, their backbones are not developed and they are called “glass eels.” In the estuary, they develop a backbone and then enter into freshwater areas. American Eels can live for at least 5 years, but some can live up to 15-20 years.

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