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Snake eel Omochelys cruentifer (Goode and Bean) 1895

[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 377, Pisodonophis cruentifer.]

Snake eel (Omochelys cruentifer)

Figure 73.—Snake eel (Omochelys cruentifer), continental slope south of Nantucket Shoals. From Goode and Bean. Drawing by H. L. Todd.


The most striking feature of the snake eel and one that distinguishes it from all other Gulf of Maine eels is that the tip of its tail is hard and pointed. Other distinctive features are that it is only about one thirty-seventh to one thirty-eighth as deep as it is long; that its dorsal fin originates only a short distance behind the tips of the pectorals when these are laid back; that its anal fin originates far behind its dorsal fin; that its snout is bluntly pointed; and that its mouth gapes rearward considerably beyond its eyes (but not so far back as in the long-nosed eel, p. 158). The dorsal and anal fins end a little in front of the tip of the tail. The gill openings are short new-moon-shaped slits, close in front of the bases of the pectoral fins. Its "peculiar and savage physiognomy" was stressed by its describers.[82]


Originally described as uniform brownish yellow. But those that we have seen have been uniform light brown below as well as above, large ones darker than small ones. A young one about 2½ inches (6½ cm.) long was pale with dark speckles.


The largest yet seen was 163/8 inches long.


The original account of the snake eel includes the information that specimens had been received that had been taken from the bodies of other fish, evidence that it is a parasitic-boring form. Nothing else is known of its habits.

General range—

Western side of the Gulf of Maine to the offing of Cape Henry, Va.

Occurrence in the Gulf of Maine—

The snake eel was originally described in 1895 from 6 specimens trawled off Nantucket by the Fish Hawk, and a number have been taken thence southward to the latitude of Cape Henry, Va., by the Albatross II, in depths of 24 to 245 fathoms. The only report of it within the Gulf of Maine is by its describers of specimens taken by fishermen on Jeffreys Bank many years ago.

[82] Goode and Bean, Smithsonian Contrib. Knowl., vol. 30, 1895, p. 147.