Animal Species:Longfin Eel, Anguilla reinhardtii Steindachner, 1867

The Longfin Eel is a large, primarily carnivorous fish that has a broad head, and a large mouth with fleshy lips.

Longfin Eel in Bellinger River

Ian Shaw © Ian Shaw

Standard Common Name

Longfin Eel

Alternative Name/s

Australian Longfinned Eel, Conger Eel, Freshwater Eel, Marbled Eel, River Eel, Spotted Eel

Identification

The Longfinned Eel has well developed pectoral fins, a broad head, and a large mouth with fleshy lips. It can be distinguished from the similar-looking Shortfinned Eel, Anguilla australis, by the length of the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin origin of the Longfinned Eel is well forward of the anal fin origin, whereas the dorsal fin origin of the Shortfinned Eel is above the anal fin origin. The two species also differ in dentition and colouration. The Longfinned Eel usually has olive or brown blotches above and on the sides, fading to pale on the belly. The median fins are brown and the pectoral fins are often yellowish. The Shortfinned Eel is usually a uniform colour and does not have a blotched pattern.

Size range

Landlocked Longfin Eels (those that cannot return to sea, due to physical barriers) can grow to 3 m in length and weigh 22 kg. The species is usually seen at much smaller sizes than this, often about 1m. Males are smaller than females.

Distribution

The species occurs in Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand. In Australia, it is known from the entire coastal margin of eastern Australia from Cape York to Melbourne and also from northern and eastern Tasmania and Lord Howe Island.

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Longfin Eel specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?

Habitat

The Longfinned Eel lives in rivers, lakes and swamps, but appears to prefer flowing water.

Life cycle

Longfinned Eels undergo a remarkable migration to sea to breed. Adult Longfinned Eels swim downstream to the sea and then migrate to their spawning grounds near New Caledonia. Female eels can have millions of eggs in the ovaries. Developing leptocephali take about one year to return to the streams of eastern Australia. Glass eels arrive in New South Wales in early Summer.  Those that make the additional journey south to Victoria arrive from January to late May. Young eels (called elvers) then swim upstream and spend a number of years maturing in freshwater. 

The closely related New Zealand Longfin Eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii) is reported to live up to 60 years in freshwater before migrating. Researchers at NIWA in New Zealand have tagged NZ Longfin Eels in an attempt to identify the location of the spawning grounds.  This research is yielding very interesting information.

Danger to humans and first aid

From Wikipedia: "Eel blood is toxic (if injected) to humans and other mammals, but both cooking and the digestive process destroy the toxic protein. The toxin derived from eel blood serum was used by Charles Richet in his Nobel winning research which discovered anaphylaxis (by injecting it into dogs and observing the effect)."

Classification

Species:
reinhardtii
Genus:
Anguilla
Family:
Anguillidae
Order:
Anguilliformes
Class:
Actinopterygii
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  1. Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. T.F.H. Publications. Pp. 240.
  2. Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & M. Allen. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 394.
  3. Beumer, J.P. in McDowall, R.M. 1996. Freshwater Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Reed Books. Pp. 247.
  4. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  5. Merrick, J.R. & G.E. Schmida. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes. Biology and Management. John R. Merrick. Pp. 409.
  6. Park, A. 1986. Incredible Voyagers. Australian Geographic. January-March 1(1): 24-33. View online.
  7. Tsukamoto, K. 2006. Spawning of eels near a Seamount. Nature. 439: 929.

 


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Anguilla reinhardtii, Longfin Eel, Wildlife of Sydney, Anguillidae, eel, large, carnivorous, broad head, large mouth, dots/spots, > 2m, rivers, lakes, swamps, freshwater, adult, Australian Longfinned Eel, Freshwater Eel, Conger Eel, Marbled Eel, River Eel, Spotted Eel, olive or brown blotches, brown, yellow,