Light-sensitive vertical migration of the Japanese eel Anguilla japonica revealed by real-time tracking and its utilization for geolocation

Seinen Chow, Makoto Okazaki, Tomowo Watanabe, Kyohei Segawa, Toshihiro Yamamoto, Hiroaki Kurogi, Hideki Tanaka, Ken Ichiro Ai, Miho Kawai, Shinichi Yamamoto, Noritaka Mochioka, Ryotaro Manabe, Yoichi Miyake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Short-time tracking (one to eight days) of the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) using ultrasonic transmitter was performed in the tropical-subtropical area adjacent to the spawning area and temperate area off the Japanese Archipelago. Of 16 eels (11 wild and five farmed) used, 10 wild eels displayed clear diel vertical migration (DVM) from the beginning, while the other five farmed eels tracked for 19 to 66 hours did not. During daytime, a significantly positive correlation between migration depth and light intensity recorded on the vessel was observed in the 10 wild eels, indicating that the eels were sensitive to sunlight even at the middle to lower mesopelagic zone (500 to 800 m). During nighttime, the eel migration depth was observed to be associated with the phase, rising and setting of the moon, indicating that the eels were sensitive to moonlight at the upper mesopelagic zone (<300 m). Two of 10 wild eels were in the yellow stage but shared similar DVM with the silver stage eels. Swimbladders of three silver stage eels were punctured before releasing, but very little effect on DVM was observed. The eels very punctually initiated descent upon nautical dawn and ascent upon sunset, enabling us to determine local times for sunrise and sunset, and hence this behavior may be used for geolocating eels. In fact, estimated positions of eels based on the depth trajectory data were comparable or even better than those obtained by light-based archival tag in other fish species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0121801
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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