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Geographic effects on American eel (Anguilla rostrata) life history characteristics and strategies

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Latitudinal variability in length and age at maturity and annual growth rate for the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) along the Atlantic coast of North America was examined with respect to life history strategies and theory. Maturing (silver phase) female lengths and ages increased with increasing latitude (and distance) from the Sargasso Sea spawning site, as did male ages but not lengths. Growth rates for females (and males) declined with increasing latitude south of 44°N latitude, approximately the entrance to the Cabot Strait, but were constant or increased within the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River, depending on the analysis method. The growing season and the number of degree-days≥ 10°C declined with increasing latitude. Female growth rates adjusted for the number of degree-days were approximately constant south of 44°N but increased further north, suggesting countergradient variation in growth. The temperature–size rule (increase in body size at lower temperatures) evidently applies to American eel females, but not males. No current life history model provides a satisfactory explanatory mechanism for the temperature–size rule and for anguillid life history strategies. A genetic link is proposed between increasing age (length) at elver and silver eel stages with increasing distance from the spawning area.

Nous examinons la variation latitudinale de la longueur et de l’âge à la maturité et du taux annuel de croissance des anguilles d’Amérique, Anguilla rostrata, le long de la côte atlantique de l’Amérique du Nord en fonction des stratégies de cycles biologiques et de la théorie. Les tailles et les âges des femelles en maturation (phase argentée) augmentent en fonction de la latitude (et de la distance) à partir du site de reproduction dans la mer des Sargasses; chez les mâles, l’âge augmente, mais non la taille. Les taux de croissance des femelles (et des mâles) diminuent avec l’augmentation de la latitude au sud du 44 °N, approximativement à l’entrée du détroit de Cabot; dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent, ils restent constants ou diminuent selon la méthode d’analyse choisie. La saison de croissance et le nombre de degrés-jours ≥ 10 °C diminuent avec l’augmentation de la latitude. Les taux de croissance des femelles ajustés pour tenir compte des degrés-jours sont à peu près constants au sud du 44 °N de latitude, mais ils augmentent plus au nord, ce qui indique l’existence d’une variation à contre-gradient dans la croissance. La règle de la relation température–taille (augmentation de la taille corporelle aux températures plus fraîches) s’applique nettement aux anguilles d’Amérique femelles, mais non aux mâles. Aucun modèle actuel du cycle biologique ne fournit de mécanismes explicatifs satisfaisants de la règle de la relation température–taille, ni des stratégies des cycles biologiques des anguillidés. Nous proposons l’existence d’un lien biologique entre l’accroissement de l’âge (longueur) aux stades de civelle et d’anguille argentée et la distance croissante de la zone de reproduction.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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