Evidence of Spawning and the Larval Distributions of Snipe Eels (Family Nemichthyidae) in the Sargasso Sea
Abstract:Snipe eels (Family Nemichthyidae, Order Anguilliformes) are highly modified pelagic fishes with a worldwide distribution. The adults of four species, Avocettina infans, Labichthys carinatus, Nemichthys curvirostris, and N. scolopaceus, have been collected in the North Atlantic Ocean, but little is known about their reproductive biology. Collections made with midwater trawls during eight cruises captured 4483 N. scolopaceus, 153 L. carinatus and 23 N. curvirostris leptocephali. The size ranges and distributions of N. scolopaceus and L. carinatus leptocephali collected during 6 different years indicated that these species spawn in the Sargasso Sea. N. scolopaceus also appears to spawn in the Tongue of the Ocean. Small N. scolopaceus leptocephali (6–15 mm) were abundant in February, March and April, and spawning had occurred on both sides of thermal fronts throughout the western Subtropical Convergence Zone (STCZ) of the Sargasso Sea. Smaller leptocephali were consistently more abundant, but larger leptocephali were more widely distributed. Some spawning also occurs during summer, but a greater proportion of larger leptocephali were present in July–August and October collections. Thus, spawning for this species is protracted and is not limited by surface thermal fronts. The leptocephali of L. carinatus were absent in February–April collections but were present in the summer and fall transects. Their average length increased from summer to fall and they were most abundant in the southern Sargasso Sea at the eastern ends of both transects. The leptocephali of N. curvirostris were rare and were only collected in the eastern STCZ.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 1996
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