Nature / Uncategorized

Eels and bamboo – how the Japanese catch eels

Today was the equivalent of spring cleaning at the lab. We gathered all sorts of rubbish that don’t go in the normal bins, including a pile of large Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescent) samples.

A group of researchers from the fisheries lab approached us while we were queuing to dispose of our trash in the truck. They asked, “since you’re throwing the bamboo stalks away anyway, can we have them?”

They went on to explain that they planned to use the bamboo stalks to catch Japanese eels (Anguilla japonica). Japanese eels hunt for prey at night and retrieve into dark corners and holes when the sun rises to hide from birds and other predators. Bamboo culms happen to be the ideal hiding spot for them – no bait required. All the researchers have to do to trap the eels is to keep the open end of the bamboo shut when they pick it up (click here to see how it’s done). I was curious, “the eels I see when snorkelling always come out of their hideouts during daylight”, “they’re moray eels and are quite territorial so they are trying to get you to back off – river eels are a bit different,” they explained. 

As simple as it sounds, beware! The researchers occasionally get hurt – the eels have very strong jaws; depending on the situation, they can either release their grip after a second or cling on like a deranged dog.



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