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Do not go slippery into that good night
August 9, 2014 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Swedes are mourning the death of Åle, the world's oldest European eel, who was found dead on Friday at age 155.
posted by argonauta (49 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
~~~~~ .
posted by munchingzombie at 8:16 AM on August 9 [17 favorites]


Wait, so it didn't die of natural causes? It "basically boiled" in a bucket? It could have been immortal!

(Also, has anyone tested the theory of the eternal goldfish, wherein a parent replaces their child's goldfish every time it dies, making the goldfish seem to defy science? What if there was a tradition handed down to one particular family member to replace the eel every time it died?)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:23 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


I was set to call hijinx on a 155-year-old eel that normally lives 7 years, but...

The lifespan of European eels is dependent on maturation time because once eels mature and spawn, they die. European eels can spawn as early as 7 years old. The maximum reported age of a European eel in the wild is 85 years (Dekker, van Os and van Willigen, 1998). (Dekker, et al., 1998)
posted by Huck500 at 8:24 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the link, Huck500. Skepticism defeated.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:27 AM on August 9


The eel pictured is not the eel in the story. The eel in the story is dead.
posted by fullerine at 8:34 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


Don't be sad. He just went back home to Satan's backyard pond of horrors.
posted by ian1977 at 8:39 AM on August 9 [9 favorites]


I wonder if Åle was on a low calorie diet down there in the well. I recall reading that halving the caloric intake extends the lifespan considerably (in mice).
posted by hat_eater at 8:41 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


155 years is a long time, you'd think he'd have tunnelled out by then.
posted by arcticseal at 8:52 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


I watched a documentary on eels a few weeks ago and was surprised to learn that no person has ever witnessed eels mating in the wild. Eels are cool.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:02 AM on August 9 [5 favorites]


Well, he had a good run.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:14 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


The eel had unusually and disproportionately large eyes - "grotesquely large", Kjellman remarked - due to a lifetime in the dark well, and may have undergone other odd changes as well.

Such as Cthulhu worship.
posted by maxsparber at 9:20 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


155 years is a long time, you'd think he'd have tunnelled out by then.

He kept putting up Rita Hayworth posters, but they kept getting soggy and giving him away.
posted by Palindromedary at 9:38 AM on August 9 [8 favorites]


The lifespan of European eels is dependent on maturation time because once eels mature and spawn, they die. European eels can spawn as early as 7 years old. The maximum reported age of a European eel in the wild is 85 years

Abstinence-only, kids!
posted by crayz at 9:44 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


The eel had unusually and disproportionately large eyes - "grotesquely large", Kjellman remarked - due to a lifetime in the dark well, and may have undergone other odd changes as well.

E.g., mistrust of hobbits
posted by clockzero at 9:46 AM on August 9 [20 favorites]


The idea of the poor thing in pieces makes me feel eel.

I'm sorry, someone had to say it.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:46 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Never heard of this fella before. And honestly? He sounds a bit Norweigan o.O
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:47 AM on August 9


Rest in peace, Åle.

There's another news story on thelocal.se right now about an erotic novelist discovering Ikea bags full of bones in the basement of a church, and though she's enraged, she says she might put them into her next novel. I wonder if she'd consider doing the same for Åle, since he never had any romantic opportunities in life.
posted by daisyk at 10:07 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


The lifespan of European eels is dependent on maturation time because once eels mature and spawn, they die. European eels can spawn as early as 7 years old. The maximum reported age of a European eel in the wild is 85 years (Dekker, van Os and van Willigen, 1998). (Dekker, et al., 1998)

So, as long as eels don't grow up, they can live happily elver after?
posted by Thing at 10:13 AM on August 9 [15 favorites]


Oh dear, that 'elver' one hurt.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:25 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Rest in peace, Åle.

I believe that should be "Rest in peices, Åle".
posted by dazed_one at 10:26 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: I watched a documentary on eels a few weeks ago and was surprised to learn that no person has ever witnessed eels mating in the wild.

Fascinating. I read a study a while back which suggested that anti-cancer mutations only establish themselves in a population when the animals have found a reliable way to avoid predation and ensure their food supplies. (In other words, and perhaps counter-intuitively, long lives lead to cancer prevention, rather than cancer prevention leading to long lives. If an anti-cancer mutation arises in a population where the individuals all die young anyway from other causes, it'll just be noise, and it'll sooner or later get mutated away again.) The study was based on rodents (naked mole rats and eastern grey squirrels: long lives, no cancer; rats and mice: short lives, lots of cancer).

It makes me wonder about these eels: You say they're so elusive that no-one has ever seen them mate. Is that elusiveness their ticket to long lives, and perhaps some resulting anti-cancer mutations? Do fish with high predation rates suffer higher cancer rates?
posted by clawsoon at 10:28 AM on August 9


I believe that should be "Rest in peices, Åle".

I was gonna go with "Rest in pisces."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:30 AM on August 9 [5 favorites]


It makes me wonder about these eels: You say they're so elusive that no-one has ever seen them mate. Is that elusiveness their ticket to long lives, and perhaps some resulting anti-cancer mutations?

Nah, they're not that elusive. You can catch them in bunches in streams and rivers. It's the mating place that's elusive -- while eels spend most of their lives in fresh water, when they mate they do so in the middle of the goll-darn Atlantic Ocean.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:34 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


I feel sorry for him, living all alone in a dark well, year after year, and no one even noticing he was gone until he was in pieces. They made it sound like he was a cherished family pet but he wasn't.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:00 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: Nah, they're not that elusive.

Welp, so much for that theory.
posted by clawsoon at 11:28 AM on August 9


It's supposedly been in the well since 1859, but they're still waiting for experts from the Freshwater Research Institute to perform a proper necropsy; apparently you can determine the age very precisely by analyzing the otolith.
posted by effbot at 12:35 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Åle the eel is survived by its sea-faring partner, alive and well in the well - but the junior eel is "only" believed to be 110.

What is going on in that well? Are there other elderly eels living in Swedish wells?
posted by Area Man at 12:59 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Now the other eel is all alone. After over a century of companionship. I know, the interior lives of eels are probably not as rich of that of humans and their sense of time is probably not fantastic, but the junior eel had spent its entire life knowing the swimmings and thrashings and stillness of the senior eel. Now it lacks much stimulus but for whatever falls into the well.

Seems a little sad.
posted by adipocere at 1:19 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


Now the other eel is all alone. After over a century of companionship.

The article is a bit confused, but they lived in different wells (both on the same property).

The 155-year one was the subject of a bit of media hype a few years ago; at that point, the current owner weren't sure if it actually existed, and it took the tv team two days to locate it (links in Swedish).
posted by effbot at 1:58 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Pieces? Man, I hope that was postmortem. It reminds me of a foaftale I heard at a party. Someone told me that her aunt had a pet fish -- a betta, I think -- that lived for 10 years, or some amazing span. One day she happened to see the fish swimming as usual, doing its fish thing, when it broke in half before her eyes.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:35 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Rest in pease (with mash).
posted by Wolfdog at 3:50 PM on August 9


Now I really want to hear the follow-up once the necropsy is done... was it REALLY 155 years old?
posted by ch1x0r at 4:11 PM on August 9


What is going on in that well? Are there other elderly eels living in Swedish wells?

There might be. From the article:
In 1859 an 8-year-old Swede by the name of Samuel Nilsson threw the eel into the well. While the act may be reminiscent of children throwing strange objects into toilets in modern times, it was in fact common practice to throw an eel in your well.
posted by subdee at 5:16 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


If anyone is interested in this stuff, I can heartily recommend The book of eels. It's a few years old now, but was such a delight to read. The prose is beautiful, and I knew nothing about eels going in, and came away simply amazed by them.
posted by smoke at 6:04 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Great suggestion, smoke.

I was gonna go with "Rest in pisces."

Requiescat in pisce --> Tolkien was hella Christian --> fish=Jesus --> the fan fiction I am currently writing
posted by clockzero at 7:14 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


155 years old? I'm surprised anyone was shocked.
posted by Renoroc at 7:27 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


The eel was found "in pieces" and "basically boiled" and I'm really confused. Did somebody try to make soup in the well? If it's an unnatural death it needs to be avenged.
posted by peripathetic at 7:30 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


The eel was found "in pieces" and "basically boiled" and I'm really confused.

I don't think the boiling part should be taken literally -- it's just that this summer has been way warmer than usual. The same day as that article was published, the Swedish weather service reported that parts of Sweden have seen the highest temperatures since they started keeping records, 150 years ago... (coincidence?)

As for pieces, at least the original article implies that the eel carcass was in a bad shape when they found it, and basically fell apart when they tried to get it out of the well.
posted by effbot at 1:59 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


In 1859...it was in fact common practice to throw an eel in your well.

Fucking Swedes, man.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:11 PM on August 10


There's a hole in my heart
As deep as a well
For that poor little eel
Who's stuck halfway to Hell.
posted by maxsparber at 3:57 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


^ better than the actual lyric Extreme ended up using.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:02 PM on August 10


In 1859...it was in fact common practice to throw an eel in your well.

When I was a kid (in the 80s), my relatives in India kept fish in their well. It was part of the daily ritual of drawing up water to throw a handful of rice in for the fish. They told me it was to keep the water fresh.

So, not just the Swedes, is what I'm saying.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:25 PM on August 10


I saw some eels being fished from the Thames on a programme the other night. The fisherman said that the big ones were 20 years old, which surprised me! I had no idea they lived so long. However that is only one of the amazing details from the lifecycle of the European eel.
The larvae (Leptocephalus) drift towards Europe in a three-hundred-day migration.[4] When approaching the European coast, the larvae metamorphose into a transparent larval stage called "glass eel", enter estuaries and start migrating upstream. After entering fresh water, the glass eels metamorphose into elvers, miniature versions of the adult eels. As the eel grows, it becomes known as a "yellow eel" due to the brownish-yellow color of their sides and belly. After 5–20 years in fresh water, the eels become sexually mature, their eyes grow larger, their flanks become silver and belly white in color. In this stage the eels are known as "silver eels", and they begin their migration back to the Sargasso sea to spawn
The European eel is endangered, due to overfishing, disease and dams blocking their traditional migration routes. The jellied eels that are growing in popularity in the UK have been from New Zealand, Holland and Northern Ireland.
posted by asok at 3:11 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Now I really want to hear the follow-up once the necropsy is done... was it REALLY 155 years old?

The latest news is that the head is missing, so they cannot tell yet. They're looking for it, and hope to have a result in a couple of weeks.
posted by effbot at 4:44 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


There's a hole in my heart
As deep as a well
For that poor little eel
Who's stuck halfway to Hell.


And we're throwing more eels down the wellll...[AAALL THE WAY DOWN]

It seems just a little bit completely disgusting to have fish living in your drinking water, but maybe they eat bugs and other things whose unchecked growth would be even worse?
posted by clockzero at 9:28 AM on August 11


Progress report: They've found the head (after spending a few hours looking in the wrong place).
posted by effbot at 3:37 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Any new eel updates, Swedish friends?
posted by ch1x0r at 6:48 PM on September 4


Yeah, I'm curious too!
posted by tavella at 9:23 PM on September 4


I've kept an eye on the local newspaper in addition to my regular news sources, but they haven't mentioned anything and neither has the university.
posted by effbot at 1:54 AM on September 5


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