Eel Biology pp 19-29 | Cite as

Origin and Evolution of the Freshwater Eels, Genus Anguilla

  • Jun Aoyama


The origin and evolution of the freshwatereels of the genus Anguilla has long fascinated biologists because of the evolutionary implications of their spectacular long-distance spawning migrations. However, the phylogeny of the freshwatereels, which is essential to understand the evolutionary history of the genus, has received little attention in comparison to ecological studies. Anguillideels are interesting not only ecologically but also because of their unique biogeography. Most of the 15 species presently recognized both morphologically and genetically are found mainly along the eastern margins of the Australian, Asian, African, and North American continents, except for the Europeaneel, A. anguilla, which is found in the western parts of Europe and the adjacent land masses (Schmidt 1922, 1925; Ege 1939; Tesch 1977) (Fig. 1). Their larvae, called leptocephali, are transported westward by warm currents flowing at low latitudes, enabling them to inhabit the eastern margins of the aforementioned continents, whereas the leptocephali of Europeaneels are transported westward away from their spawning area in the Sargasso Sea and then are subsequently transported by the strong eastward flow of the Gulf Stream and then the North Atlantic Drift. However, anguillideels are absent along the east coast of South America, despite the existence of the warm Brazil Current. Not only does the worldwide pattern of distribution of anguillideels raise questions about why they are absent in the South Atlantic, it also raises questions about how the two temperate Atlantic species became isolated from their congeners in the Indo-Pacific. To answer these questions, the origins and the dispersion of anguillideels should be examined by analyzing their phylogenetic relationships.


Dispersal Route Growth Habitat Conger Myriaster Atlantic Lineage Adjacent Land Mass 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun Aoyama
    • 1
  1. 1.Ocean Research InstituteThe University of TokyoNakano-ku, TokyoJapan

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