Tiger Snake Eel, Myrichthys tigrinus
The Tiger Snake Eel, Myrichthys tigrinus, whose common Spanish name is tieso tigre, is a species in the Snake Eel or Ophichthidae Family, known collectively as tiesos in Mexico. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Myrichthys, four of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.
The Tiger Snake Eels have elongated cylindrical bodies that taper toward the tail. They have a cream coloration with large black oval spots in a giraffe pattern. They have a spotted throat and chin, a key to identification. Their dorsal fin has a pale margin. Their head is conical with a short overhanging snout, mid-sized eyes, and a short mouth. Their teeth are small and granular with two irregular rows on the jaws and one on the roof of the mouth. They have short broad-based pectoral fins. Their tail, which has a blunt, hard, and finless tip, is 58 to 63% of body length. They have no scales.
The Tiger Snake Eels are found mostly within burrows in sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 200 feet. They reach a maximum length of 74 cm (29 inches). The Tiger Snake Eels are poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Tiger Snake Eel are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Tiger Snake Eel can be confused with the Mustachioed Snake Eel, Herpetoichthys fossatus (densely spotted head; short tail) and the Pacific Snake Eel, Ophichthus triserialis (lacks spotting on throat and chin).
The Tiger Snake Eels are fairly rare, thus of limited interest to most and normally a “catch and release”.
Tiger Snake Eel, Myrichthys tigrinus. Underwater photo taken in coastal waters of Bahia Tenacaitita, Jalisco, February 2015. Length: 55 cm (22 inches). Photo and identification courtesy of Jeff Cross, Albuquerque, NM.