Definitions

eel

eel

[eel]
eel, common name for any fish of the 10 families constituting the order Anguilliformes, and characterized by a long snakelike body covered with minute scales embedded in the skin. Eels lack the hind pair of fins, adapting them for wriggling in the mud and through the crevices of reefs and rocky shores. Most species are marine; the largest and most diverse group are the morays, family Muraenidae, sharp-toothed and vicious. Moray eels have a highly developed second set of jaws (pharyngeal jaws) that hold and pull prey into the throat after the main jaws snare it. The common freshwater eel, Anguilla rostrata, of the family Anguillidae, is found in the Atlantic coastal regions of Europe, in the Mediterranean area, and in North America E of the Rockies. Several other freshwater species are native to Asia. The mature European eel migrates 3,000 to 4,000 mi (4,828-6,437 km) to its spawning ground in the deep sea SW of Bermuda, a journey lasting several months; they use ocean currents to help them swim there. There it reproduces and then dies. The young hatch as transparent ribbonlike larvae that drift north and east on ocean currents for three years before entering a river; they then develop into elvers, tiny versions of the adult eel. The American eel follows the same pattern, except that the young require only one year to return to freshwater. Once there, the developing elvers feed voraciously on dead and living animals, even traveling over short stretches of land in search of frogs and lizards. They hunt at night and rest by day. The male, which attains a length of 2 ft (61 cm), remains at the river's mouth, while the female (4 ft/122 cm) swims upstream, staying there from 5 to 20 years. When the eels are sexually mature their enormous appetite wanes, and they do not eat during migration to the spawning ground. The oily flesh is regarded by some as a delicacy; the skin was formerly used as leather. Eels are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Anguilliformes.

See R. Schweld, Consider the Eel (2002).

eel, electric: see electric fish.
True eels (Anguilliformes) are an order of fish, which consists of four suborders, 19 families, 110 genera and approximately 600 species. Most eels are predators.

The flat and transparent larva of the eel is called a leptocephalus. A young eel is called an elver.

Most eels prefer to dwell in shallow waters or hide at the bottom layer of the ocean, sometimes in holes. These holes are called eel pits. Only the Anguillidae family comes to fresh water to dwell there (not to breed). Some eels dwell in deep water (in case of family Synaphobranchidae, this comes to a depth of , or are active swimmers (the family Nemichthyidae - to the depth of ).

Classification

This classification follows FishBase in dividing the eels into fifteen families. Additional families that are included in other classifications (notably ITIS and Systema Naturae 2000) are noted below the family with which they are synomized in the FishBase system.

Suborders and families

Suborder Anguilloidei

Suborder Congroidei

Suborder Nemichthyoidei

Suborder Synaphobranchoidei

In some classifications the family Cyematidae of bobtail snipe eels is included in the Anguilliformes, but in the FishBase system that family is included in the order Saccopharyngiformes.

The so-called "electric eel" of South America is not a true eel, but is more closely related to the Carp.

Use by humans

Freshwater eels (unagi) and marine eels (conger eel, anago) are commonly used in Japanese cuisine - foods such as Unadon and Unajuu are popular but expensive. Eels are also very popular as food in Chinese cuisine, particularly Cantonese and Shanghai cuisine. Eel prices in Hong Kong often reached ¥1000 per kilogram, and even exceeded ¥5000 per kilogram at one time. Eel is also popular in Korean cuisine and is seen as a source of "stamina" for men. The European eel and other freshwater eels are eaten in Europe, the United States, and other places around the world. A traditional East London food is jellied eels. The Basque delicacy angulas consists of deep-fried elver (young eels). New Zealand longfin eel is a traditional food for Maori in New Zealand. In Italian cuisine eels from the Comacchio area (a swampy zone along the Adriatic coast) are specially prized along with the freshwater ones of the Bolsena Lake. In northern Germany and in The Netherlands, smoked eel is prized as a delicacy.

Eels are popular among marine aquarists in the United States, particularly the Moray eel which is commonly kept in tropical saltwater aquariums.

Fishing for eels is best done at night with either a gaff or a strong line with a small and square bloody piece of red meat.

Elvers were once eaten by fishermen as a cheap dish, but environmental changes have led to increased rarity of the fish. They are now considered a delicacy and are priced at up to £700 per kg in the United Kingdom.

Name

The English name eel descends from Old English ǽl, Common Germanic *ǣlaz. Also from the common Germanic are Middle Dutch ael, Old High German âl, Old Norse áll. Katz (1998) identifies a number of Indo-European cognates, among them the second part of the Latin name of the eels, anguilla, which is attested in its simplex form illa in a glossary only, and likewise the Greek word for "eel", egkhelys, the second part being attested in Hesychius as elyes. The first compound member, anguis "snake", is cognate to other Indo-European words for "snake", cf. Old Irish escung "eel", Old High German unc "snake", Lithuanian angìs, Greek ophis, okhis, Vedic Sanskrit áhi, Avestan aži, Armenian auj, iž, Old Church Slavonic *ǫžь, all from Proto-Indo-European *oguhis, ēguhis. The word also appears in Old English igil "hedgehog" (named as the "snake eater"), and perhaps in the egi- of Old High German egidehsa "wall lizard". The name of Bellerophon (Βελλερόντης, attested in a variant Ἐλλεροφόντης in Eustathius of Thessalonica) according to this theory is also related, translating to "the slayer of the serpent" (ahihán), the ελλερο- being an adjective for a lost ελλυ- "snake", directly comparable to Hittite ellu-essar- "snake pit". This myth likely came to Greece via Anatolia, and in the Hittite version, the dragon is called Illuyanka, the illuy- part being cognate to the illa word, and the -anka part being cognate to the angu word for "snake". From these forms, no unambiguous Proto-Indo-European form for the eel word can be reconstructed, it could have been *ēl(l)-u-, *ēl(l)-o- or similar.

Young eels are known as elver(s).

Further information

An urban legend states that wallets made out of electric eels (which, despite their name, are not eels) can demagnetize credit cards. This was proven to be untrue in an episode of the MythBusters TV show. As pointed out in the Straight Dope, eel-skin wallets are made from hagfish which are unrelated to electric eels. Furthermore, it seems that magnetic clasps, not eel leather, are to blame for demagnetization.

Eel blood is toxic, but the toxic protein it contains is destroyed by cooking. The toxin derived from eel blood serum was used by Charles Robert Richet in his Nobel winning research which discovered anaphylaxis (by injecting it into dogs and observing the effect).

On January 31, 1930, the Danish research ship "The Dana" captured what researchers believed to be a six-feet long eel larva near South Africa's Cape of Good Hope. This would have meant there were very long eels in the sea, since the typical eel larva is three inches (76 mm) long, while the adults can grow from about to long. In 1970, Dr. David G. Smith of the University of Miami identified the larva found as that of the spiny eel, an eel-like fish whose larval length is equal to its adult length, while the larval length of the true eel is much shorter than its adult length.

One of the famous attractions of the Pacific island of Huahine (part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia), is the bridge that crosses over a stream with 3- to long eels. These eels are deemed sacred by the locals, by local mythology.

See also

References

External links

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