Geographic variation in the assemblages of leptocephali in the western South Pacific

Michael J. Miller, Jun Aoyama, Noritaka Mochioka, Tsuguo Otake, Peter H.J. Castle, Gen Minagawa, Tadashi Inagaki, Katsumi Tsukamoto

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36 Citations (Scopus)


A sampling survey was carried out to study the distribution and ecology of leptocephali in several different areas of the western South Pacific between 160 and 175°E during August and September of 1995. The survey included transects of stations across the westward flowing South Equatorial Current (SEC) region to the northwest of Fiji and south to 30°S, a transect to the north of the Tasman Front, and a transect that passed through the Solomon Islands. A total of 2362 leptocephali of at least 94 species of 13 families of eels and other elopomorph fishes were collected. The most abundant leptocephali in the region were of the marine eel families Serrivomeridae, Congridae, Nemichthyidae, and Muraenidae of the order Anguilliformes. The leptocephali of shallow water eels of the Chlopsidae, Moringuidae, Muraenidae, and Ophichthidae were most abundant and present at a wide size range in the low salinity "Fresh Pool", which is also located closest to the major islands in the SEC region. Anguillid leptocephali were also most abundant in the SEC region and several species appeared to be spawning at that latitude. Cluster analysis and ordination of the catch rates of leptocephali suggested there were four regional assemblages related to the offshore spawning of mesopelagic serrivomerid eels, the presence of anguillid leptocephali in the SEC region and the relationship between the regional ocean current patterns and the geography of islands where shallow water marine eels live and probably spawn nearby. More impoverished assemblages were found in the southern regions where there are fewer islands, colder, higher salinity surface waters, and predominantly eastward flow. These findings support the hypothesis that various taxa of anguillid and marine eels use different spawning and recruitment strategies in the western South Pacific region as has been suggested by studies on leptocephali in the Northern Hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)776-794
Number of pages19
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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