Animal Species:Common Pike Eel, Muraenesox bagio (Hamilton-Buchanan, 1822)

The Common Pike Eel occurs throughout the Indo-Pacific on soft-bottomed estuaries and coastal waters. It's a nocturnal species that feeds on benthic fishes and crustaceans.

Common Pike Eel caught at Lake Curalo

Ian Merrington © Ian Merrington, DPI Fisheries

Standard Common Name

Common Pike Eel

Alternative Name/s

Common Pike Conger

Identification

The Common Pike Eel has an elongate body that lacks scales. It has long slender jaws and large pointed teeth at the front of the lower jaw and on the vomer. The vomerine teeth are triangular in lateral view and have straight leading edges.

Size range

The Common Pike Eel grows to about 1.8 m in length.

Similar Species

The Common Pike Eel can be distinguished from the Darkfin Conger Eel, Muraenesox cinereus, by its narrower head and differences in the number of dorsal fin rays, vertebrae and pores in the lateral line. The Darkfin Conger Eel is restricted to tropical waters from north-western Western Australia to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Distribution

It occurs throughout the Indo-Pacific. In Australia it is known from south-western Western Australia, around the tropical north of the country and south to the southern coast of New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Muraenesox bagio

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Common Pike Eel specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?

Habitat

The species occurs in soft-bottomed estuaries and coastal waters down to about 100 m in depth.

Feeding and Diet

It feeds on benthic fishes and crustaceans.

Classification

Species:
bagio
Genus:
Muraenesox
Family:
Muraenesocidae
Order:
Anguilliformes
Class:
Actinopterygii
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  1. Smith, D. G. 1999. Muraenesocidae. in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (Eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. Pp. iii-vi, 1398-2068.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fish, ichthyology, Common Pike Eel, Muraenesox bagio, Muraenesocidae, eel, Common Pike Conger, long and skinny, pointed teeth, > 1m, tropical water, soft-bottomed estuaries, coastal water, marine,

6 comments

Mark McGrouther - 8.03 PM, 07 March 2011

Hi ColLR,  Thank you for telling us about the culinary quality of Pike Eels.  That's news to me and I'm sure others will find it of interest.

ColLR - 9.03 AM, 07 March 2011
I have eaten these eels and can tell you they are very tasty similar to flathead.
Mark McGrouther - 12.02 PM, 02 February 2011

Hi paradoxguy,  I didn't realise that pike eels were consumed in Japan.  Thank you for pointing this out.  A quick web search pulled up this page washokufood.blogspot.com/2009/04/hamo-pike-conger.html.  The pike eel image at the top of the page shows M. cinereus, however further down the page M. bagio is mentioned, along with its Japanese name suzuhamo.

paradoxguy - 5.01 PM, 31 January 2011
Pike eels are regarded as food fish by the Japanese at least, which could be a useful method to thin their populations.
Mark McGrouther - 9.01 AM, 24 January 2011

Hi tomdeb. My apologies for making you wait for a reply to your comment - I have been away on leave.  I know that sometimes anglers find pike eels a nuisance.  When caught they can writhe so vigorously that they end up tightly tied in fishing line.  The species is a predator of fishes and crustaceans.  It's very difficult to say what would happen if a predator like the Common Pike Eel was removed from the environment.  It brings to mind the classic tale of hunters shooting all the mountain lions in a region so that the antelope on which they preyed would become more numerous.  What in fact happened was that without the 'regulating pressure' of predation from mountain lions, the antelope population initially increased (as was hoped) but then plumeted because the antelopes ate 'all' the grass in the area.  I guess the take home message is that tinkering with the balance of nature can lead to unexpected outcomes.

tomdeb - 8.01 AM, 09 January 2011
Many people consider the Pike Eel a pest. Can anyone comment on them being an asset to the enviroment, or what negative impact it would have if they were destroyed? If they should be removed, what use would the carcass have?

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