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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Age and growth rates of North Atlantic eel larvae (Anguilla spp.), based on published length data

  • F. W. Tesch1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen52:BF02908738


The age of glass eels arriving at the European coasts is estimated by different authors to range from 3/4 to 3+years; some of these estimates are based on counts of “daily rings”. The present study reviews published data on North Atlantic length frequency distributions. The only years for which larvae samples are available from the spawning area to the European continental slope are 1979 and, to a certain extent, also 1922. In the spring of both years, length frequency distributions exhibited two distinct maxima which are considered to belong to the AG 0 (mean lengths 12 and 18 mm for 1979 and 1922, respectively) and the AG I (47 and 44 mm). In addition, a third, less distinct maximum is visible and the existence of an AG II must be considered. Growth during the first year of life is calculated using the means of total lengths of sufficiently large samples, collected with progressing season, of the years 1920, 21, 22, 79, 81. From the resulting linear regressions forAnguilla anguilla until the beginning of winter, a daily length increase of 0.15 mm was estimated. Growth ofA. rostrata was faster (0.22 mm·day−1) Daily length increase ofA. anguilla in winter was only 0.03 mm; during a possible second summer 0.06–0.09 mm·day−1 and during a possible third summer considerably less. There is a length increase of the European eel larvae from south to north, known also from glass eels, which makes evaluation of length increase from west to east even more difficult. A higher age of glass eels in the north than in the south is therefore likely.


Length IncreaseLength FrequencyLarval LifeLength Frequency DistributionEuropean Coast