The American eel and its cousin, the European eel, have always had an aura of mystery. It was not until 1904 that Danish professor Johannes Schmidt discovered their spawning grounds, the Sargasso Sea. Although they spawn there, they have yet to be observed spawning and it is thought that this takes place in very deep waters. Here are some facts that are known about eels. Do you know them?
1. American eels, which spend most of their lives in freshwater, are found as far west as South Dakota. They move into saltwater when it is time to breed. All American eels breed in the Sargasso Sea. Where is the Sargasso Sea?
A. In the North Atlantic between the West Indies and the Azores
B. In the South Atlantic off the northern coast of Brazil
C. In the calm waters due south of the Antilles
D. In the seaweed-choked waters between Cuba and the Bahamas
2. Anguilla rostrata is the Latin name for the American eel. Anguilla is Latin for “eel.” What does rostrata mean?
3. True or false? The submerged aquatic plant, eelgrass, gets its name from being a major source of food for American eels.
4. What do American eels have that many other eel species don’t?
D. Green blood
5. Just before the American eel begins its migration to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce, its eyes enlarge. Meanwhile, another organ decreases in size as it is no longer used. Which organ is it?
6. The American eel has small teeth and weak jaws. How does it break larger prey into smaller pieces so it can swallow them?
A. Bashes them into rocks.
B. It doesn’t. It is known for taking small bites of its prey.
C. It spins its body very quickly, with the prey in its mouth, causing the prey to break up.
D. Two eels will work together, each holding an end and tugging until the prey breaks up.
7. Adult male and female American eels, before they are ready to spawn, live in two different habitats: One lives in brackish streams along the coast, the other lives in freshwater streams as far as the headwaters. Which is which?
8. Just beneath the American eel’s skin is a dense capillary system that allows the fish to:
A. Keep warm in the colder waters of headwater streams and North Atlantic
B. Breathe through its skin
C. Circulate blood more quickly to the fish’s muscles, allowing the eel to swim faster
D. Makes the eel less tasty for predators
9. One of the life stages of the eel is thin, leaflike and transparent. The name of the fish at this stage is:
A. Sliver eel
B. Jelly eel
C. Glass eel
D. Shadow eel
10. Which life stage of the eel is most abundant in the Chesapeake Bay?
B. Black eels
C. Yellow eels
D. Silver eels
Answers: 1. A 2. B (The eel’s protruding lower jaw gives it a beaklike appearance. 3. False 4. B (The scales are very small and embedded in the skin.) 5. D (The eels stop eating once they begin their spawning migration.) 6. C (Eels have been recorded spinning six to 14 times a second.) 7. Males live in brackish streams. The females live in freshwater streams. 8. B (This helps the eel when it moves through wet areas of land such as mud or wet grass.) 9. C 10. C