TGIF: Eel larvae


The larvae of eels and other related species are called small heads or in the fancier Greek, Leptocephalus.  The video above should give you some insight into this moniker.  Unlike fish larvae, Leptocephali can grow quite large from a few inches to well over a foot in length.  Also unlike fish larvae, Leptocephali do not feed on plankton but rather feed on microscopic particles in the water called marine snow. As can be seen in the video above they are transparent, undoubtedly an adaptation to avoid predation.  Indeed, Leptocephali do not possess red blood cells which could be easily seen in a transparent body.  Red blood cells are not acquired until the next phase of their life.

Dr. M (1629 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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6 comments on “TGIF: Eel larvae
  1. awesome video! I’m work with American eels for my master’s degree so I love seeing other leptocephalus larvae!!

  2. Pingback: Vidéo: une larve d’anguille transparente. | GuruMeditation

  3. I thank the person who took the picture of the live leptocephalus. It is really wonderful to be able to see a live, gracefully moving transparent leptocephalus as a past researcher on leptocephal. I saw leptocephali hatching from the eel eggs about centimeter long and alive for a few days and finally died in the lab glass containers. But this picture really great and I have never seen anything like this before.
    Thank so much for feasting my eyes. I wolul like to forward this to my fellow leptocephaloligists. Solomon

  4. After posting the comment on the beautiful leptocephalus, I was tempted to identify the leptocephalus as a past researcher on them. It looks like it is the leptocephalus of a Muraenid, such as a Moray eel. The environment also is suggestive of Moray eels. I could be wrong as this is not based on the scientific data such as the myotome count etc. Good luck to others who might like to take a guess.
    Solomon Raju.

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