SYDNEY’S INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS
If you’ve ever peered into the murky waters of a pond in Centennial Park chances are you’ve seen one of their long, slimy occupants flopping about. The long-finned eels seem pretty content in their picturesque sludge, but apparently, they migrate as far as New Caledonia or the Solomon Islands to lay their eggs.
Autumn is traditionally a quiet time in nature following the hectic breeding season during spring and summer, but for the long-finned eel it’s time for one of life’s biggest adventures – a cross-country trip followed by a trans-Pacific swim.
Commonly misinterpreted as snakes, pests or menacing creatures from the deep, these native fish inhabit most of Centennial Park’s ponds and can often be seen gliding along just under the surface looking for food.
They are predominately carnivorous, feeding on insects, small fish and even young birds. They are not aggressive, and contrary to most perceptions, they have very short, platelike teeth which are of little threat to humans.
Long-finned eels only breed once in their lives and it is the last thing that they will do before they die. The age range to reach sexual maturity can be anything from 20 – 80 years
It seems impossible, but the longfin eel supposedly uses a network of connecting ponds, streams, stormwater drains, and a little bit of slithering over land to eventually hit Botany Bay and then the open ocean. Once their journey is completed, the eels spawn millions of eggs on the salty coastlines of the South Pacific and then die. The exceptionally far-fetched part is that the baby eels hatch and without any parental guidance find their way all the way back to the ponds of Centennial Park.
Scientists have not yet fitted a longfin eel with a tracking device, but multiple studies into the migration of the park’s eels have shown this to be true! The eels have special sensors on their noses that help their bodies transform and gills expand for salty water and returning baby eels have been studied gliding back through the channels to the Centennial Park ponds.
IMAGE CREDIT: Darryl Torckler