The European Conger Eel – Conger conger

The European Conger Eel is native to the Mediterranean Sea

and the north east Atlantic Ocean. It is actually the largest eel in the world. The European conger eel belongs to the family Congridae, and carries the Latin name of Conger conger.

Distribution:

Sightings are common of the European conger, both in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and in the eastern Atlantic. Their distribution in the eastern Atlantic stretches from Norway and Iceland, reaching as far as Senegal. During their migration, it has been know they can reach depths of 3600 m, although they can be seen in very shallow waters, close to shore from 0 – 500 m. The young conger tends to prefer rocky, rough, broken ground, close to shore, before venturing out into deeper waters.

Description:

The European conger, at adult age have an average length of 1.5 m. The maximum recorded length lies at 3 m, the maximum weight approximately 110 kg. Due to its weight, it makes it the largest eel in the world. Females, at sexual maturity have a length of 2 m, the male is smaller, at an average length of 1.2 m.

The conger has no scales, its body is very long and is anguilliform. The upper body is grey in colour, the underbelly – white. European conger eels can be blackish in colour too, but predominantly grey. Along the lateral line of the body you can find white spots, small in nature. The head is conical in shape, slightly depressed with a rounded snout and prominent, lateral olfactoru holes. The eels gills are found in the lateral position. European congers teeth are situated on the jaw, arranged in rows. Dorsal fins, along with anal fins are confluent with caudal fins. Ventral fins are absent on the conger, pectoral fins though are present.

 

Food and Habitat:

The European conger lives in holes or large open crevices. They may be found together in one hole with moray eels, as they both frequent the same habits. They come out of their eel pits at night to hunt. Conger eels are night predators and feed mostly on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. Apart from hunting fresh food, they also scavenge on dead and rotting fish if available.

Reproduction:

When the European conger eel reaches the age between 5 and 15 years, its body will undergo a transformation. Their reproductive organs, both in male and females increase in size, the skeleton reduces its mass and the teeth will fall out.

During this transformation process, the conger stops feeding and will leave European waters. The migration begins to subtropical areas in the Atlantic Ocean, often to Sargasso Sea. On arriving in the eastern Atlantic, the female conger eels spawn, producing 3 to 8 million eggs. After the hatching process of the eggs, the juvenile European conger will swim back to European water, thus restarting this cycle of life.

Here in Gozo, we are very fortunate to have them close to our dive centre. This photo was taken by PADI Course Director- Oliver Benndorff.

Come and visit us, and enjoy these beautiful creatures with at DiveSMART Gozo. For more information, please contact Janet at info@divesmartgozo.com