Distribution and abundance of net-captured calycophoran siphonophores and other gelatinous zooplankton in the Sargasso Sea European eel spawning area

  • Florian LüskowEmail author
  • Philipp Neitzel
  • Michael J. Miller
  • Lasse Marohn
  • Klaus Wysujack
  • Marko Freese
  • Jan-Dag Pohlmann
  • Reinhold Hanel
Original Paper


Gelatinous zooplankton (GZ) such as medusae, ctenophores, siphonophores, pyrosomes and salps are important components of oceanic pelagic communities and small calycophoran siphonophores (CS) are typically abundant at shallow depths. The Sargasso Sea spawning area of the Atlantic catadromous freshwater eels has a regular pattern of shallow autumn to spring temperature fronts. There is limited information about the southern Sargasso Sea GZ fauna, and it is not known which species are distributed across these frontal zones. Plankton samples from a survey of larval European eel (Anguilla anguilla) abundance in March and April 2017 using an Isaacs-Kidd Midwater Trawl (0–300 m, 35 stations, three transects) were used to examine the distribution and abundance of net-captured CS and other GZ species in relation to oceanographic characteristics. More than 2200 specimens of 15 taxa were sub-sampled, with five CS (Abylopsis tetragona, A. eschscholtzii, Chelophyes appendiculata, Eudoxoides spiralis and E. mitra) dominating catches at every station. GZ were most abundant around the 22 and 24 °C isotherms, and higher abundances of CS in the north were correlated with lower water temperature. The widespread presence of CS across the European eel spawning area is consistent with a recent study detecting their DNA sequences in the gut contents of young eel larvae collected in the Sargasso Sea, suggesting CS material was either eaten directly or as part of ingested marine snow particles. The present study shows that both types of organisms occupy the southern Sargasso Sea during the European eel spawning season.


Western North Atlantic Ocean Co-occurrence Leptocephalus diet Anguilla Net sampling 



We greatly appreciate the captain and crew of the FR/V Walther Herwig III for their efforts to collect the specimens. Katsumi Tsukamoto provided support for Michael J. Miller to join the 2017 sampling survey. We thank Tina Blancke, Daniel J. Ayala, Maria Blažina, Zuzana Musilová and Louis Bergemann who helped with IKMT sampling and sorting and Warren R. Francis for help with statistical analyses. We appreciate the constructive comments made by three anonymous reviewers on the manuscript.


This study was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMLE) who provided ship time and financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities.

Data availability

All data used to create Figures and Tables in this paper can be accessed from the Supplementary Material.

Supplementary material

12526_2019_971_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (43 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 43.2 kb)


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Institute for the Oceans and FisheriesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Research division: Marine Ecology, Evolutionary Ecology of Marine FishesKielGermany
  4. 4.Department of Marine Science and Resources, College of Bioresource SciencesNihon UniversityFujisawa-shiJapan
  5. 5.Institute of Fisheries Ecology, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute (TI)Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and FisheriesBremerhavenGermany

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