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eel, common name for any fish in the order Anguilliformes, and characterized by a long snakelike body covered with minute scales embedded in the skin. Eels lack the hind pair of fins, adapting them for wriggling in the mud and through the crevices of reefs and rocky shores. Most species are marine; the largest and most diverse group is the family Ophichthidae, the snake eels. Other large families are the conger eels, family Congridae, and the moray eels, family Muraenidae. Sharp-toothed and vicious, moray eels have a highly developed second set of jaws (pharyngeal jaws) that hold and pull prey into the throat after the main jaws snare it. The only freshwater eels are those of the family Anguillidae. The freshwater European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is found in the Atlantic coastal regions of Europe and the Mediterranean area; A. rostrata, the American eel, in North America E of the Rockies. Several other freshwater species are native to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific.

The mature European eel migrates 3,000 to 4,000 mi (4,828–6,437 km) to its spawning ground in the deep sea SW of Bermuda, a journey lasting several months; they use ocean currents to help them swim there, where they reproduce and then die. The young hatch as transparent ribbonlike larvae (called glass eels) that drift north and east on ocean currents for three years before entering a river; they then develop into elvers, tiny versions of the adult eel. The American eel follows the same pattern, except that the young require only one year to reach freshwater.

Once in freshwater, the developing elvers feed voraciously on dead and living animals, even traveling over short stretches of land in search of frogs and lizards. They hunt at night and rest by day. The male, which attains a length of 2 ft (61 cm), remains at the river's mouth, while the female (4 ft/122 cm) swims upstream, staying there from 5 to 20 years. When the eels are sexually mature their enormous appetite wanes, and they do not eat during migration to the spawning ground. Their oily flesh is regarded by some as a delicacy; the skin was formerly used as leather.

Eels are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Anguilliformes.


See studies by R. Schweld (2002) and J. Prosek (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about an eel?

Eels embody many of the meanings of snakes or serpents, although their watery habitat links them more explicitly with the powers of the unconscious. As phallic symbols, they indicate unconscious sexual desires. They may also symbolize something in the unconscious of which we are afraid.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for a number of unrelated fishes included in the orders Anguilliformes and Cypriniformes; all have an elongate, serpentine body.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any teleost fish of the order Apodes (or Anguilliformes), such as the European freshwater species Anguilla anguilla, having a long snakelike body, a smooth slimy skin, and reduced fins
2. any of various other animals with a long body and smooth skin, such as the mud eel and the electric eel
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
For bird watchers, there are three different trails and 160 species to observe, including a ride on an Angula - a high floating raft - to the bird island in the centre of the lake.
Informed by a belief that indigenous Namibians were incapable of making decisions and shaping their own destiny (Angula, 1990), the Bantu educational system was designed to inculcate racism and provide a steady supply of semi-literate, subservient farm and house laborers for the colonial power.
In hip-hop, visual, physical, musical lines are set in motion, broken abruptly with sharp angula, breaks, yet they sustain motion and energy through fluidity and flow.
(8.) Baer JT, Vugia DJ, Reingold AL, Aragon T, Angula FJ, Bradford WZ.
"We expect to reach 350,000 by the end of the decade," said Helmut Angula, fisheries minister.
In addition to effecting an amnesty law, the Agreement for National Reconciliation and Development between the government of President Ronald Venetiaan and the five rebel groups--"Jungle Commando," "Tucayana Amazons," "Angula Movement for Liberation," the "Mandelas," and the "Koffimakkas"--will establish economic zones for the tribal communities and implement several projects for the development of the interior.
He in 1980 moved to Tsumeb, where he joined the Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL) boxing club and trained along with retired boxers such as Nestor Tobias, Lizias Angula and Timoty Haikonda.
AJPAS: Greetings Nahas Angula, and thank you for agreeing to participate in this (February 2017) interview.