Vertical structure of plankton communities in areas of European eel larvae distribution in the Sargasso Sea

Peter Munk*, Torkel Gissel Nielsen, Cornelia Jaspers, Daniel Jiro Ayala, Kam W. Tang, Fabien Lombard, Lasse Riemann

*Corresponding author for this work

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The European and American eels spawn in the subtropical convergence zone (STCZ) in the Sargasso Sea, a dynamic and relatively productive area that is strongly influenced by front and eddy formations and subducted high-saline water masses. To understand how the physical and biological environments may affect the early life history of eels, we conducted a detailed bio-physical investigation of the water column at a site of high eel larvae abundance. Diel measurements and sampling in the upper 300 m revealed strong variations in hydrographic conditions and mean depths of different taxonomic groups; however, characteristics patterns of distribution were apparent. Most species showed diel vertical migrations, ascending about 20-30 m at night, whereas examples of night-time downward migration were also seen. European eel larvae were among the species showing more extensive diel vertical migration: their population mean depth changed from 160 m at day to 100 m at night where abundance peaked at 45 m depth. Distribution and migration of eel larvae corresponded to patterns observed for small hydrozoans, supporting a proposed predator-prey linkage. The study demonstrates the diverse and vertically strongly structured plankton community of STCZ where larvae of eel and other fish find a wide range of potential niches
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)362-375
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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