First Observation of a Spontaneously Matured Female European Eel (Anguilla anguilla)

Palstra, A.P.; Jéhannet, P.; Swinkels, W.; Heinsbroek, L.T.N.; Lokman, P.M.; Vesala, S.; Tulonen, J.; Lakka, T.; Saukkonen, S.


This study reports on the first observation of a spontaneously matured female European eel. The 43-year-old eel, together with eleven other females, resided at an aquarium house since their capture in 2002 and stocking as glass eels in 1978. In June 2019, the girth of the belly of the female increased as a sign of oocyte maturation. The specimen had an estimated gonadosomatic index (GSI) of 47, only half of the oocytes were hydrated and matured, indicating that European eels are polycyclic batch spawners. The live eels of the cohort were still in the previtellogenic phase but their eye sizes were close to that of the matured eel. We hypothesize that substances released by other maturing and spawning fishes may have triggered puberty of the eel. This first observation, and the possibility of more eels maturing in the near future, provides a natural reference for the sexual maturation of the European eel.