Elwood the long-finned eel
Also known as spotted eel, longfinned eel, speckled longfin eel
Hello. I'm Elwood the long-finned eel from Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.
A family of us eels live in the creek, and our sizes range from little Elvis at 30 centimetres up to my size of about one metre long.
Like humans, some of us live extremely long lives — maybe even 100 years — so you are likely to see us around for a while.
(I don't think I have reached 100, because I haven't received a letter of congratulations from the Queen.)
Long-finned eels are similar to short-finned eels, but we long-fins have small dark spots all over our back and sides, and the fin on our back (the dorsal fin) starts much closer to our head. Short-finned eels are more evenly coloured, and don't have the speckles and spots.
What do I eat?
Although I am a fish, I am a carnivorous fish, so I will eat other fish and almost anything else you would eat.
You can see me in the photo above prowling around like a shark looking for something to eat. Apart from fish, I will eat insects, crustaceans, molluscs, some plant material, dragonfly larvae (mudeyes), and even juvenile waterfowl.
You have probably heard stories of eels coming out of the water and moving across land.
Are these stories true?
But remember, we are fish, so we need water. But on rainy nights, and even on gloomy rainy days, we can travel a respectable distance overland if there is enough water on the ground.
Some of my cousins have made their home in the ponds of Sydney's Botanic Gardens, where they thrive on eating fish and young birds. Every now and then some anti-eel person clears all the eels out of the ponds, but when there is good rain, the eels travel overland and sneak back in.
Our amazing migrations
Have you heard about our amazing instinct for migration?
Adult long-finned eels migrate downstream when they reach sexual maturity in an attempt to reach and eventually breed around the Coral Sea near New Caledonia. Eels reach sexual maturity at different times, even at 90 years of age. After spawning (producing eggs), the adult dies. A mother eel may carry millions of eggs inside her.
Riding the current
When the eggs hatch, the see-through larvae are called leptocephali, and they may spend two years at sea riding south on the east Australian ocean current.
Leptocephali means “slender-headed”. They are small and flat, and some are shaped like eucalyptus leaves. The name leptocephalus is singular (one is called a leptocephalus and more than one are referred to as leptocephali).
The leptocephali eventually turn into “glass eels”, meaning they have no colour. They lose their teeth, and stop feeding while they move into areas where the rivers meet the sea — where fresh water meets salt water.
Young eels continue the huge migration
When the glass eels move into fresh water, they grow quickly and gain colour. Now the young eels become known as elvers, and they move into the lower reaches of streams.
Elver migrations generally take place at night. To avoid fast-flowing water, the elvers stay close to the banks.
When the young eels reach obstructions such as waterfalls and dam walls, many cling to the wet surface and wriggle their bodies until they are up and over the obstacle.
They take several years to mature in fresh water.
What happens to landlocked eels?
Of course, some of us can't get out to sea in the first place because of obstructions. These landlocked eels can grow very large — up to three metres (10 feet) and weighing more than 20 kilograms (40 pounds).
— Elwood the eel