Ophisurus serpens Click to enlarge image
A Serpent Eel at Clifton Gardens, Sydney, New South Wales, March 1998. Image: E. Schlögl
© E. Schlögl

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    serpens
    Genus
    Ophisurus
    Family
    Ophichthidae
    Order
    Anguilliformes
    Class
    Actinopterygii
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    It can grow to 2.5 m in length.

Introduction

The Serpent Eel is one of the longest eel species growing up to 2.5 m in length. They are usually seen by divers with just the head protruding from the substrate.



Identification

The Serpent Eel has an extremely elongate body. The long, slender jaws extend posteriorly beyond the eye. The species has pectoral fins, but lacks scales, pelvic fins and a caudal fin. It is sandy brown to olive green above and silvery to pale below. The head pores are black.

Habitat

Serpent Eels burrow in sandy and silty bottoms. Adults live in offshore sediments but young are found in coastal waters and estuaries. Divers most often see just the head protruding from the substrate.



Distribution

The species is recorded from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe and the Eastern Atlantic. In Australia it is known from marine waters of southern Queensland around the south of the continent and north to the south-west coast of Western Australia.

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.



References

  1. Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.
  2. Castle, P.H.J. in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  3. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  5. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.