Our animals

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Northern lakes and seas

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The Pond

Danish forest lake

The wide creek

Sturgeon

Danish stream

Under construction

Herrings in the Sound

Boulder reef in the Sound

Small animals of the stone reef

Sandy bottom

Eelgrass in the Sound

Faroese bird cliff

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Atlantic puffin

Atlantic puffin

Cuckoo wrasse

Cuckoo wrasse

Ballan wrasse

Ballan wrasse

Atlantic cod

Atlantic cod

Saithe

Saithe

Pouting

Pouting

Atlantic wolffish

Atlantic wolffish

European eel

European eel

European conger

European conger

European plaice

European plaice

European flounder

European flounder

Turbot

Turbot

European eel

European eel

Facts

LatinAnguilla anguilla
Size134 cm
FoodFish and benthic animals
HabitatAlong the shores, in the largest lakes and in the smallest ditches.
IUCN

Critically endangered

The European eel is a critically endangered species. This means that it is in great danger of becoming extinct in nature. The decline in the eel population is due to overfishing, pollution, and the destruction of its natural habitats. Don't eat eel It is still legal to sell eel, but many supermarkets have stopped doing so. National Aquarium Denmark, Den Blå Planet, recommends that you do not buy or eat eel.

LocationThe eel is common in most of Europe.
Map

A slimy customer

The European eel is long, slimy and has many small scales. It swims by moving its body side to side in an S-shaped wave. The eel is a hardy species. It lives in both salt water and fresh water, and can even survive on land if the soil is moist and cool.

Active in the dark

The eel does not like the light. So during the daytime, it hides among aquatic plants, stones and roots, or it digs itself down into the mud. When darkness falls, the eel goes hunting for food.

The eel's amazing transformation

The eel's life is surrounded by mystery. Its life begins with a 6,000 km swim from the Sargasso Sea to its habitats in Europe and North Africa. As an adult it returns to the Sagasso Sea to spawn.

Egg

No eggs have ever been found in the Sargasso Sea. All knowledge of eel eggs comes from laboratory studies. Size: 0.1 cm. Larvae

Eel larvae is shaped like a leaf. It travels with the Gulf Stream towards the coasts of Europe and Africa – a journey that takes 1-2 years. We do not know what the eel eats during the journey. Size: 1-10 cm. Glass eel

The eel larvae transforms into a transparent glass eel as it nears the coasts of Europe. It migrates up rivers and streams. Every year, 50-100 million glass eel are caught for eel farming. Size: 5 cm. Yellow eel

In fresh water, the glass eel develops a yellow belly and is then called a yellow eel. This is what it looks like for approx. 10 years, after which it becomes sexually mature. Size: up to 135 cm. Silver eel

The sexually mature eel has a black back, a silver belly, large eyes and it stops eating. It leaves the lakes and streams and begins to migrate back to the Sargasso Sea. Size: up to 135 cm. Ready-to-spawn eel

The eel spawns somewhere in the Sargasso Sea, but no one has ever managed to catch a ready-to-spawn eel, despite many attempts to do so.

Marine biologist Johannes Schmidt

In 1915-20 the Danish marine biologist Johannes Schmidt described the mysterious life cycle of the eel for the first time. He caught a large number of eel larvae at various places in the Atlantic Ocean. He found the smallest larvae in the Sargasso Sea. Schmidt therefore concluded that the Sargasso Sea must be the eel's spawning grounds.

Den Blå Planet on an eel expedition

In spring 2014 an employee from National Aquarium Denmark, Den Blå Planet, joined the DTU Aqua's eel expedition on the Dana marine research vessel with researchers from around the world. The expedition headed for the Sargasso Sea – the eel's spawning grounds – searching for ready-to-spawn eel and eel larvae and to study if climate change is affecting the eel. The expedition did not succeed in catching a ready-to-spawn eel.

Excursion

You can find eel everywhere in Danish waters – along the coastline, in the largest lakes and in the smallest ditches.


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