Freshwater habitat use by a moray eel species, Gymnothorax polyuranodon, in Fiji shown by otolith microchemistry

Abstract

Freshwater eels of the Anguillidae are diadromous because they migrate between ocean and freshwater environments, but other anguilliform fishes are generally considered to be strictly marine species. A few marine eels of the Muraenidae and Ophichthidae have occasionally been found in freshwater or estuaries, indicating that anguillids are not the only anguilliform eels that can use freshwater in some parts of the world. The moray eel Gymnothorax polyuranodon is one species that is known to be present in freshwater in the Indo-Pacific, but its life history is unknown. One way to evaluate what types of habitats are used by fishes is to determine the ratio of strontium (Sr) to calcium (Ca) in their otoliths, because this can show if they have used freshwater or saltwater environments. To evaluate the patterns of freshwater use by this unusual species of marine eel, the otolith Sr/Ca ratios of four G. polyuranodon (275–344 mm) caught in a freshwater stream of Fiji were analyzed. The consistently low Sr/Ca values (0–4) indicated upstream movement after settlement and freshwater or estuarine residence of all four individuals. These eels did not appear to have entered freshwater just for a short time period, which is consistent with other reports that this species is present in estuarine and freshwater habitats. This suggests that G. polyuranodon may be a catadromous species of marine eel. The similarities and differences between the life histories of anguillid eels and the few marine eels that have evolved the ability to invade freshwater habitats is discussed in relation to the evolutionary origin of diadromy in anguilliform fishes that originated in the marine environment.

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Correspondence to Katsumi Tsukamoto.

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Tsukamoto, K., Watanabe, S., Kuroki, M. et al. Freshwater habitat use by a moray eel species, Gymnothorax polyuranodon, in Fiji shown by otolith microchemistry. Environ Biol Fish 97, 1377–1385 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-014-0228-9

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Keywords

  • Anguilliformes
  • Muraenidae
  • Diadromy
  • Freshwater habitat use
  • Sr/Ca
  • Fiji