Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 November 2012
The reproductive cycle of the deep-sea eel Nettastoma melanurum was described based on 397 specimens (171 males and 226 females). Experimental trawl surveys between depths of 772 and 1598 m and commercial hauls (580–600 m) on compact mud bottoms off the south-eastern Sardinian waters (central-western Mediterranean) were carried out. The Sardinian catches did not indicate any particular trend of size-range in relation to depth in both sexes and seem to be sexually dimorphic with females growing almost 9 cm longer than males at maximum lengths. It was a dioeceous and an oviparous deep-sea species. For females and males, six stages of oocyte development, characterizing the different stages of maturity, were identified. Histological examination demonstrated that ovaries of N. melanurum showed a ‘group-synchronous’ pattern, highlighting a type of monocyclic ovary. The species showed a size at first maturity of 53.5 cm and 50.5 cm total length in females and males respectively. The reproductive period appeared to be unique and well defined in both sexes. Their monthly changes of gonadosomatic index and maturation phases of ovaries and testis showed that the species was in a resting period from March to July. Vitellogenesis and spawning began in September and ended in January. Nettastoma melanurum seemed to be a fecund species (8132–18755 eggs).