Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 10, pp 1231–1252 | Cite as

Larval size-distributions of Ariosoma balearicum cryptic species during the March–April season in the Sargasso Sea Subtropical Convergence Zone

  • Michael J. MillerEmail author
  • Lasse Marohn
  • Klaus Wysujack
  • Sylvain Bonhommeau
  • Mari Kuroki
  • Marko Freese
  • Jan-Dag Pohlmann
  • Shun Watanabe
  • Tina Blancke
  • Peggy Weist
  • Martin Castonguay
  • Håkan Westerberg
  • Katsumi Tsukamoto
  • Reinhold Hanel


Leptocephali of the shallow-water congrid eel Ariosoma balearicum are abundant during February–April in the Sargasso Sea, and larval and adult meristic data indicates this species includes several regional subpopulations/cryptic species. Four multiple-transect larval surveys (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017) were used to examine the geographic size distribution of two myomere-count types of A. balearicum leptocephali. High-count (HC) larvae were consistently mostly between 80 and 100 mm in size (60–132 mm; 87.9 ± 6.8 mm) as observed previously, and frequently had narrow size ranges. The usually larger LC larvae (78–176 mm; 111.4 ± 26.7 mm) were more abundant in western or central areas. HC larvae tended to decrease in size from west to east and increase from south to north. Catch rates were geographically variable relative to hydrographic structure/frontal positions across the wide 2015 sampling area. Mitochondrial 16 s rRNA sequences of HC and LC larvae show species-level differences, providing evidence of the existence of two cryptic species with different larval dispersal strategies in the Sargasso Sea subtropical gyre region. The HC larvae disperse widely into the gyre, seemingly through Gulf Stream recirculation or eastward frontal-jet flows, and apparently must use directional swimming to cross the Florida Current to recruit into the South Atlantic Bight. LC leptocephali may mostly be retained near the Bahamas, with few larvae dispersing into the gyre. This seems to indicate natural selection occurred for spawning location and larval behavior due to the powerful Florida Current/Gulf Stream, resulting in two completely different spawning and larval dispersal strategies within a local geographic region.


Ariosoma balearicum Leptocephali Larval dispersal Sargasso Sea Subtropical gyre Cryptic species 



We thank the captains and crews of the R/V Walther Herwig III and the R/V Maria S. Merian of Germany for their assistance in deploying the sampling gear, and the technicians and other scientists from several different countries for their assistance to sort the leptocephali out of the plankton samples. We also acknowledge the importance of the Sargasso Seas sampling surveys of J. D. McCleave and of the larval and adult meristic data obtained by D. G. Smith in building an information base about this species in the WNA. Funding for the cruises was provided by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (2011, 2014, 2017) and by the Senate Commission on Oceanography of the German Research Foundation (DFG) (2015).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Miller
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Lasse Marohn
    • 3
  • Klaus Wysujack
    • 3
  • Sylvain Bonhommeau
    • 4
  • Mari Kuroki
    • 2
  • Marko Freese
    • 3
  • Jan-Dag Pohlmann
    • 3
  • Shun Watanabe
    • 5
  • Tina Blancke
    • 3
  • Peggy Weist
    • 3
  • Martin Castonguay
    • 6
  • Håkan Westerberg
    • 7
  • Katsumi Tsukamoto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Reinhold Hanel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Marine Science and Resources, College of Bioresource SciencesNihon UniversityFujisawaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Aquatic Bioscience, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Thünen Institute of Fisheries EcologyBremerhavenGermany
  4. 4.IfremerLe Port CedexFrance
  5. 5.Department of Fisheries, Faculty of AgricultureKindai UniversityNaraJapan
  6. 6.Fisheries and Oceans CanadaInstitut Maurice-LamontagneMont-JoliCanada
  7. 7.Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Freshwater ResearchSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesDrottningholmSweden

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