Needletail Conger, Rhynchoconger nitens
The Needletail Conger, Rhynchoconger nitens, whose common Spanish name is congrio estilete, is a species in the Conger Eel or Congridae Family, known collectively as congrios in Mexico. Globally, there are only six species in the genus Rhynchoconger, four of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Needletail Congers have elongated narrow “eel-like” bodies. They are pale reddish brown in color transitioning to silver ventrally with the upper half of their head and body covered with numerous tiny black spots. Their anal and dorsal fins are black. Their pointed head has small beady eyes, a horizontal mouth with bands of simple conical teeth, and an overhanging strongly projecting conical snout with a fleshy keel underneath. Their anal and dorsal fins are continuous with their caudal fin. Their caudal fin is slender and narrows to a point (after which they are named), their dorsal fin origin is just before the rear of their pectoral fins, and their pectoral fins are well-developed and end above their gill cover openings. A key to identification is the tail length which is reported to be greater than 67% of total length, however, we note that the small fish pictured below has a tail that is only 52.7% of total length. They have a complete lateral line.
The Needletail Congers reside buried within coastal sandy bottoms at depths from 65 to 340 feet and reach a maximum length of 40 cm (16 inches). They are a rare and poorly studied species and as such very limited information is available about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Needletail Congers are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from north of Magdalena Bay along the central and northwest coasts of Baja and the extreme northern portion of the Sea of Cortez.
The Needletail Conger is most likely confused with the Hardtail Conger, Gnathophis cinctus (large black eyes).
The Needletail Congers are small, exceedingly rare, and of limited interest to most.
Needletail Conger, Rhynchoconger nitens. Fish provided via regurgitation by an 11-inch Pacific Red Snapper caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, August 2009. Length: 17 cm (6.7 inches). Tail: 53%.