Speckled longfin eel

Speckled longfin eel

The speckled longfin eel or Australian long-finned eel, Anguilla reinhardtii, is one of 15 species of eel in the family Anguillidae. It has a long snake-like cylindrical body with its dorsal, tail and anal fins joined to form one long fin. It usually has a brownish green or olive green back and sides with small darker spots or blotches all over its body. Its underside is paler. It has a small gill opening on each side of its wide head, with thick lips. It is Australia's largest freshwater eel, and the female grows much larger than the male. It is also known as the spotted eel.

Distribution

The long-finned eel is a native of New Guinea, eastern Australia (including Tasmania), Lord Howe Island, and New Caledonia. Specimens have been found in some Pacific islands and in New Zealand. It can be found in many freshwater areas, including creeks, streams, rivers, swamps, dams, lagoons, and lakes.

Size and lifespan

Long-finned eels can grow to 2 metres (6 feet) for males and 1.58 metres for females, although landlocked eels can grow to 3 metres (10 feet) and weigh 20 kilograms (more than 40 pounds). They can live more than 100 years.

Diet

Long-finned eels are carnivorous, eating crustaceans, snails, frogs, molluscs, insect larvae, and fish — including elvers and native trout. They will also take small waterfowl.

Breeding and migration

Like the other anguillids, speckled longfin eels are catadromous: when they reach maturity, they stop feeding and migrate downstream to the sea. They may travel up to three or four thousand kilometres to a spawning ground. The larvae drift on the ocean currents and eventually reach coastal waters, where they metamorphose into elvers (tiny, semi-transparent eels). From there, they migrate upstream, traversing numerous obstacles — if necessary, leaving the water and travelling short distances over moist ground. They are well fitted to this task, being able to absorb 50% of the oxygen they need through the skin. Eventually, they take up residence in a lake, swamp, dam or river, where they remain until they reach maturity.

References

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