Snake Eel Family Photos and Information – Ophichthidae

The Snake Eel Family – Ophichthidae

Pacific Snake Eel, Ophichthus triserialis, a representative member of the Snake Eel or Ophichthidae Family.

The fish of the Snake Eel or Ophichthidae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as tiesos. They are a very diverse group of bottom dwellers with long snake-like bodies. The family is large and is distributed in all tropical and temperate oceans with more than two hundred ninety global species that have been placed in fifty-eight genera. In Mexican waters fifty-one species are present, twenty-three in the Atlantic and twenty-eight in the Pacific. They vary in size from 46 cm (18 inches) to 2.44 meters (8 feet 0 inches) in length and have eel-shaped bodies with a rounded cross section. They have small eyes, located just above the mouth, and numerous pores. Most have pointed snouts that overhang their lower jaw. Some have anal fins, dorsal fins, and/or pectoral fins. Their caudal fin tip varies from being hard, finless, and pointed to being conspicuous and confluent with the anal and dorsal fins. They have a complete lateral line and are scaleless.

The Snake Eels are rarely seen by humans as they spend the majority of their time buried, tail first, in mud and sand. They use their pointed snout and pointed tail for digging. They only emerge at night to feed on crabs, shrimp, and small fish. They are of no commercial importance and are obtained as a by-catch of deep water trawls and by hook and line by commercial fishermen. When caught by hook and line they can at times be difficult to release from their burrows.

There are nine members of the Snake Eel Family, one from the Atlantic and eight from the Pacific, currently presented in this website:

Fangjaw Eel, Echiophs brunneus
Pacific Snake Eel, Ophichtus triserialis
Pacific Worm Eel, Myrophis vafer
Shrimp Eel, Ophichthus gomesii
Smiling Sand Eel, Ichthyapus selachops
Sooty Sand Eel, Bascanichthys bascanoides
Tiger Reef Eel, Scuticaria tigrina
Tiger Snake Eel, Myrichthys tigrinus
Yellow Snake Eel, Ophichthus zophochir