February 2, 2011

Wild Eel Eggs Found For First Time

Greek philosopher Aristotle believed eels emerged spontaneously from mud.

Although that has long since been disproven, the slippery fish has always had a mysterious reproduction system.

Now, a team of Japanese researchers reportied in the British science magazine Nature Communications on Tuesday that they found 31 eel eggs near the West Mariana Ridge in the Pacific Ocean near Guam, for the first time ever, shedding light on the mystery surrounding the spawning habits of the fish.

Experts say the new discoveries about how and where eels lay their eggs could help pave the way for new techniques to farm the dietary staple of many cultures.

The team involves researchers from the University of Tokyo's Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute and the Fisheries Research Agency. "Further research into the physical and biological surroundings in the area where the eggs were collected will contribute to eel production by telling us more about the environment and food information for farming eels," said Hideki Tanaka, a researcher at the agency who participated in the project, to AFP.

Most eels used for food are raised in farms using fry -- or very young eels -- caught at sea. Eel fry numbers have fallen, however, from their peak in the 1970s due to climate changes and overfishing.

Although not yet considered commercially viable, as the number of eggs that successfully hatch is low, but The Fisheries Research Agency last year succeeded in farming eels from eggs. The team says that the latest collection of eggs will be bring about a breakthrough in developing eel farming technology and facilitate conservation efforts, AFP reports.


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