chapter  10
22 Pages

The curious and curiouser world of the European eel

WithMark Everard, Jack Perks

This chapter is devoted to celebration of the most curious of all British freshwater fishes: the European eel. On arrival at the shore, the glass eel stage of the European eel then funnels into estuaries, gradually taking on darker body pigments to then become known as elvers. Once in fresh waters, European eels can live for anything from six to thirty years, attaining a length of between 40 and 100 cm long. In this freshwater adult phase, the mouth is broad, the eye small and the body grey, often with a slightly yellow tinge, hence the common term ‘yellow eel’. Given the complexity and seemingly implausibility of the life history of the European eel, and that no one had ever seen breeding of eels nor any with testes, it is then hardly surprising that our forebears held all sorts of strange ideas about the origins of baby eels.