To establish a simple and reliable index for determining silvering stages of the Japanese eel, Anguilla japonica, we observed the colorations of various body parts and biological characteristics of the eels collected in a coastal area of Japan (Mikawa Bay). The four silvering stages are characterized by the colorations of pectoral fins and ventral skin as follows: (1) Y1, yellow eel without a metallic hue at the base of pectoral fins, (2) Y2, late yellow eel with a metallic hue at the base of the pectoral fins but without melanization at the tip of pectoral fins, (3) S1, silver eel with complete melanization at the tip of pectoral fins but without full pigmented belly in black or dark brown, and (4) S2, late silver eel with black or dark brown belly. The body size, eye diameter and sexual maturity of each stage increased in the order of Y1, Y2, S1 and S2 stages, whereas the digestive tract degenerated in the same order, suggesting a sequential development of these ontogenetic stages identified in the study. The Y1, Y2 and S1 stages could be also distinguished by canonical discriminant function analysis using three internal (gonad-somatic index, GSI; hepato-somatic index, HIS; and gut index) and two morphometric (condition factor and eye index) parameters, supporting the significance of these stages. This method of staging for the silvering process of the Japanese eel appeared to be applicable to all specimens of this species, since this index used only simple external characteristics that would be easy to observe during field surveys.
Silvering Japanese eel Silver eels Yellow eels Metamorphosis Coloration Index Staging