PORT PHILLIP BAY


Serpent Eel 

Ophisurus serpens (Linnaeus, 1758)

View scientific description and taxonomy

Scientific Details

Meristics.
Dorsal fin spines/rays: many
Anal fin spines/rays: many
Caudal fin rays: -
Pectoral fin rays: 13
Ventral fin spines/rays: -
Lateral line: -
Vertebrae: 199-223

Interpreting fin count meristics.
Spines are in Roman numerals and soft rays are in Arabic numerals. Spines and rays that are continuous in one fin are separated by a comma. Fin sections are separated by semicolons.

Detailed descriptions of fin count and other mersitics are in:
Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds) (2008) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Order level detail.
Body usually very long, slender, with long-based dorsal and anal fins continuous with the tail fin (if present) in all but one species. All species lack pelvic fins, and some groups lack pectoral fins. Scales are usually absent, or if present, are embedded in skin. All species pass through a pelagic, ribbon- or leaf-like larval stage called a leptocephalus larva.

Family level detail.
Large family of small to large-sized eels found worldwide, mostly in tropical seas. Very long, thin, cylindrical eels with the posterior nostril within the mouth and reduced fins. Most are burrowers and live in habitats ranging from shallow intertidal areas to the bottom of the deep-sea and even in the oceanic midwaters. Most are rarely seen because of their burrowing habit.

Taxonomy

Phylum:
Chordata
Subphylum:
Craniata
Superclass:
Gnathostomata
Class:
Actinopterygii
Order:
Anguilliformes
Family:
Ophichthidae
Genus:
Ophisurus
Species:
serpens

General Description

Body very slender, snake-like, tapering to a point, with low dorsal and anal fins barely reaching tail tip, small prominent pectoral fins and long slender jaws, the upper extending beyond the lower. Greenish to sandy-brown, juveniles silvery. To 2.5 m.

Biology

Juveniles are found in bays and estuaries, often with their heads protruding from the sand, while adults live offshore. They have powerful jaws armed with sharp teeth and should be handled with great care.

Habitat

Temperate waters, burrowing into sandy and silty bottoms in bays, estuaries and along the coast, in depths of 0-550 m.

Soft substrates

Distribution guide

Southern Australia.

Species Group

Fishes Eels

Depth

Shore (0-1 m)
Shallow (1-30 m)
Deep ( > 30 m)

Water Column

On or near sea floor

Max Size

2.5 m

Commercial Species

No

Global Dispersal

Native to Australia

Conservation Status

  • DSE Advisory List : Not listed
  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not listed

Author

article author Bray, D.J.

Di Bray is a Senior Collection Manager of ichthyology at Museum Victoria.

Author

article author Gomon, M.F.

Dr. Martin Gomon is a Senior Curator of ichthyology at Museum Victoria.

citation

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F., 2011, Serpent Eel, Ophisurus serpens, in Taxonomic Toolkit for marine life of Port Phillip Bay, Museum Victoria, accessed 23 Sep 2017, http://portphillipmarinelife.net.au:8098/species/6277

Text: creative commons cc by licence