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Saving the European eel: how morphological research can help in effective conservation management
De Meyer, J.; Verhelst, P.; Adriaens, D. (2020). Saving the European eel: how morphological research can help in effective conservation management. Integrative and Comparative Biology 60(2): 467-475.
In: Integrative and Comparative Biology. Oxford University Press: McLean, VA. ISSN 1540-7063; e-ISSN 1557-7023, more
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    The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a critically endangered species, whose recruitment stocks have declined to nearly 1% compared to the late 70s. An amalgam of factors is responsible for this, among them migration barriers, pollution, habitat loss, parasite infection, and overfishing. A lot of recent studies focus on aspects that can increase the mature silver eel escapement rate, such as identifying migration barriers and developing passageways or addressing the impact of pollution on the eel’s health. However, little attention is given to the eel’s morphology in function of management measures. Worryingly, less than 50% of the currently installed management plans reach their goals, strongly indicating that more information is needed about the eel’s ecology and behavior. Functional morphological studies provide insights on how species perform behaviors crucial for survival, such as feeding and locomotion, but also in how environmental changes can affect or limit such behaviors. Consequently, functional morphology represents an important biotic component that should be taken into account when making conservation decisions. Hence, here, we provide an overview of studies on the eel’s morphology that do not only demonstrate its relation with ecology and behavior, but also provide information for developing and installing proper and more specific management measures.

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