How long do eels live for?

Answered by Antonio Sutton

The lifespan of eels can vary depending on the species, but I will focus on American eels for this discussion. American eels typically live up to at least 20 years old, but there have been reports of some individuals living longer. It is important to note that determining the exact lifespan of eels is challenging, as they are highly migratory and their life cycle involves complex journeys.

The life cycle of an American eel begins in the Sargasso Sea, where they are born as transparent larvae. These tiny creatures then embark on an incredible journey that can take them several years to complete. They migrate thousands of miles, swimming upstream in rivers and streams, until they reach freshwater habitats like lakes, ponds, and rivers along the eastern coast of North America.

Once in freshwater, the eels undergo several stages of development, gradually transforming into their adult form. During this time, they adapt to their surroundings and grow in size. It takes several years for an eel to reach sexual maturity, with males typically maturing earlier than females. This means that they are not ready to reproduce until they are at least several years old.

When American eels reach reproductive maturity, which can happen anywhere between 6 and 20 years of age, they begin their journey back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. This migration is a remarkable feat, as they navigate through various waterways, overcome obstacles such as dams, and endure different environmental conditions.

Unfortunately, once eels have completed their spawning journey and released their eggs and sperm in the Sargasso Sea, they do not survive. After reproducing, they have completed their life cycle, and the adults will pass away.

It is worth noting that while some eels may live up to 20 years old, many individuals do not reach this age due to various factors. Eels face numerous challenges throughout their lives, including predation, habitat loss, pollution, and the impacts of climate change. These factors can significantly impact their survival and overall lifespan.

American eels can live up to at least 20 years old, but their lifespan can be influenced by various factors. Their complex life cycle, which involves long migrations and adaptations to different environments, adds to the challenges they face. Understanding and conserving eel populations are crucial to ensuring their long-term survival.