Anguilliformes – Eels & moray eels
With a global distribution spanning both freshwater and marine environments
Eels are easily recognizable with their serpentine bodies, absence of pelvic fins, and long dorsal and anal fins that create a ribbon-like appearance. The lack of pelvic fins contributes to their streamlined shape, facilitating efficient and agile swimming through various aquatic environments.
One of the noteworthy adaptations of eels is their mucus-covered skin. This mucous layer protects against parasites and abrasions but also aids in reducing friction as they navigate through water. Also, eels possess a well-developed sense of smell, a crucial sensory tool for locating prey, identifying mates, and detecting environmental changes. These adaptations collectively enhance their survival in diverse aquatic habitats.
Eels exhibit a global distribution, populating a wide range of aquatic environments. They can be found in freshwater rivers and lakes, where they grow and mature, and in the mysterious depths of deep-sea trenches. Notable species within the eel family include the American eel, European eel, and deep-sea gulper eels, each adapted to their unique habitats.
Beyond their distinctive characteristics and remarkable journeys, eels hold significant ecological value. They are essential components of aquatic food chains, serving as both predators and prey. Their role in controlling prey populations and nutrient cycling helps maintain the health and balance of their respective ecosystems. Additionally, eels are valued in many cultures for their culinary appeal, contributing to local economies and traditional cuisines.