This fascinating book was on my list for months and I finally made time for it. I had expected mostly natural history and discussion of eel biology but this book is so much more. Memoir. Philosophy. Praise of those who brought the science forward.
For thousands of years eels, in their various stages of development, were thought to be four distinct species. This is because they undergo startling metamorphosis across their life cycle. It is only within the last 100 years or so that researchers have been able to find conclusive evidence re their biology. Born in the western Atlantic, they begin their eastward journey as tiny, leaf shaped creatures, drifting along in the current. By the time they reach Europe they have morphed into glass eels and begin their migration up rivers and streams, some migrating many miles inland. Most of their adult life is spent in slow moving fresh water as yellow eels. Then, at some point, triggered by who knows what, they turn and head back the way they came, back to the ocean. Some are 7 or 8 when they do this, some may be as old as 50. What spurs this is a mystery, but they begin their final metamorphosis as they turn to navigate back to the sea.
The book lagged for me about half way through and I almost put it down to pick up something else. I am so glad I didn’t because the last third is where it begins to get more philosophical and I really enjoyed this aspect of the writing. It is really quite a lovely book and very readable.