Freshwater eels in the family Anguillidae spend a majority of their adult life in freshwater but migrate to the ocean to spawn and die. Because freshwater eels are believed to have a long larval period in the open ocean, it is unclear how the present global distribution of species arose. A stock of freshwater eels of the family Anguillidae was found on Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, in June 2003. In October 2003, a single eel specimen was caught using a hand net from this small group of eels on Palmyra Atoll. Morphological and molecular characters (12S and 16S mitochondrial rRNA and cytochrome b mtDNA sequences) were used to identify the species as Anguilla marmorata Quoy & Gaimard. The discovery of these eels on Palmyra supports the hypothesis of natural range expansion from the Indo-Pacific eastward to the Galápagos through the Line Islands, but further analysis of oceanic currents and more variable genes are required to assess whether humans are involved in the recent spread of Anguilla marmorata to these new locations.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1