Found from Greenland to South America, the American eel is one of earthís most unique creatures, spending most of its life in freshwater, returning to the ocean to spawn, and undergoing amazing transformations in the process.
In the North Atlanticís Sargasso Sea, fertilized eggs float to the surface and hatch into small, transparent larvae. Over the next year, larval eel are transported and dispersed by the Gulf Stream along the East Coast. The transparent juveniles (glass eels) enter the Chesapeake from February to June, gradually becoming pigmented (elvers).
Moving into freshwater rivers and streams they become yellow eels and begin a 5- to 15-year growth phase. They swim and feed at night on insects, fish and other aquatic life. A slimy coat protects them from disease and their ability to absorb oxygen through their skin allows them to traverse barriers.
Each fall, sexually mature eels leave our Bay. Fat reserves fuel their long migration back to their birthplace, as they cease feeding. Mating occurs several thousand feet below the Sargassoís surface with females laying up to 10 million eggs. Although never witnessed, they are believed to die soon after their only spawn.
Illustration of American Eel (Anguilla rostrata)
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