How long do they live? European eels can live over 85 years old in captivity [1, 2]. Usually being in captivity isn’t conducive to a long life for most species, but not these eels. You see, they can live to a very old age unless they decide to mate, which is only once and then they die. So perhaps abstinence works out for those eels in aquariums, but something tells me it’s not as fun.

Where are they found? They are found throughout the Mediterranean Sea  and the Northern Atlantic Ocean [2]. See figure 1.

Figure 1. Range of the European eel.

What do they eat? They’ll eat pretty much anything that they can find dead or alive [3].

What do they look like? European eels can grow to 14 pounds and over 4 feet in length [3]. Check out figures 2 and 3.

Figure 2. A European eel hanging out with a fish, which just seems like a bad idea for the fish.
Figure 3. Anguilla anguilla

How do they reproduce? They reproduce by broadcast spawning and a female can release anywhere from 2,000,000 to 10,000,000 eggs [3], but that comes with the caveat of dying right after they spawn. Females reach maturity at 9 to 20 years old and males between 6 to 12 years old [2].

How do scientists know how old they are? Age is usually based on size estimations, but one was kept in captivity for 85 years [2].

So what are we lacking? Well we definitely need to look more into that whole they can live for a really long time, unless they reproduce and then they die (which explains how many parents feel). This is another species that could use some follow up studies on everything from reproduction to their extreme lifespans when they don’t reproduce.

The genome of the European eel can be found on the NCBI [4].

Conservation status: They are critically endangered as listed by the IUCN List of Threatened Species. This is attributed to overfishing.



  1. European eel. Accessed 12/27/2016.
  2. Deedler, C. L. 1970. Synopsis of biological data on the eel Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus) 1758. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 80. FAO, Rome.
  3. Animal Diversity Anguilla anguilla. Accessed 12/27/2016.
  4. NCBI.
  5. Jacoby, D. & Gollock, M. 2014. Anguilla anguilla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014