Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Studies on the Reproductive Biology of New Zealand Freshwater Eels

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posted on 2021-11-08, 04:42 authored by Todd, Peter Robin

Macroscopic and histological observations of the gonads from 1,739 non-migrant freshwater eels, the shortfin Anguilla australis schmidtii Phillipps and the longfin A. dieffenbachii Gray, showed that they pass through seven stages of development. Shortfins become sexually differentiated at body lengths of 35.0cm to 56.9cm and longfins at lengths of 50.0cm to 67.0cm. No intersexual stage was present, as in A. anguilla L., and although 1% of 350 migrating longfin males examined contained ribbon-like testes, the typical lobed organ of Syrski (testis) can be used as diagnostic of maleness. Histologically, the maximum stage of development attained in the non-migrant, immature stage, was spermatogonia in the males and vacuolated oocytes in females. At the time of seaward migration, based on gonad histology, gonadosomatic indices and ova diameters, migrating longfins were more sexually developed than shortfins. These differences may relate to the location of different oceanic spawning areas: that for the longfin possibly being closer to New Zealand. The autumnal migratory runs, from March to May, of the sexually maturing adults in the Makara stream showed no particular species or sex sequence. The movement of eels was coincident with a rise in stream level and the second half of the lunar cycle. Other relevant environmental factors are discussed. In Lake 0noke peak catches of seaward migrating shortfins were made before the longfins and movements of eels occurred throughout the lunar cycle. Once at sea, the eels apparently disappear. A published note is included on the first eel of the New Zealand species, a longfin female, to be caught at sea. Age determinations from 995 eels were made by otoliths, which were burnt lightly to intensify the growth zones for reading purposes. Shortfin males are younger than females at migration. Longfins are older than shortfins at migration but the males are younger than the females. In the non-migrant stage, sexually undifferentiated shortfins grow more slowly relative to the males, and males relatively more slowly than the females. Similar but less significant differences in growth occur in longfins. Migrant males held in seawater were induced to mature and spawn with injections of mammalian hormones or carp pituitaries, over temperatures of 11.8 degrees C to 28 degrees C. The maturation period was dependent on temperature. Testes of experimental eels that survived maturation regressed to the pre-migrant or migrant stage. Two eels that had regressed were induced to mature a second time. Females held at 20 degrees C and injected with mammalian hormones showed significant increases in sexual development but died before maturity. Females injected with carp pituitaries matured and spawned. Mature longfin eggs, 0.9mm to 1.2mm in diametar, and mature shortfin eggs, 0.9mm to 1.2mm in diameter, are translucent and contain one to many oil globules. A blastodisc formed in water hardened eggs but attempts at fertilization were unsuccessful. Gametogenesis, observed from non-migrant, migrant and hormone injected eels is similar to that described for other teleosts. Electron microscope observations showed parallel features of spermiogenesis in both species. Mature spermatozoa have crescent shaped heads with an anteriorly placed mitochondrion. A flagellum of the unusual 9 + 0 pattern arises from the posterior region of the head, and a short, striated rod-like structure is positioned adjacent to the main flagellum. A complex of subfibrils which extend along either side of the head to the mitochondrion arise from the proximal centriole.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Castle, P H J