Slender Snipe Eel

Slender Snipe Eel

  • Scientific name: Nemichthys scolopaceus
  • Also know as: Deep Sea Duck
  • Size: Up to 5ft in length (but will only weigh around 6-7oz)
  • UK minimum size: N/a
  • UK shore caught record: N/a
  • IUCN status: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Distributed across the deep water seas of the world.
  • Feeds on: Mid-water pelagic crustaceans, shrimps and prawns.
  • Description: Body is extremely long, thin and tapering. Dorsal fin runs the full length of the body and there is no apparent anal fin. Bird-like head is small and jaws extremely long and curve outwards so they cannot be fully closed. Colour is usually dark grey/green to brownish.

The slender snipe eel is an unusual deep-sea creature which humans rarely come into contact with. They have incredibly long and thin bodies which mean that a fully grown 5ft long slender snipe eel will weigh only six or seven ounces, and during its evolution the anus of the slender snipe eel has moved forward so it is now located in its throat! They also have 750 vertebrae in their spines – reportedly the most of any creature on planet earth.

Habitat and Distribution

The slender snipe eel lives the middle of the water column in deep seas and oceans. It can be found at depths between 1000 and 4000 metres. It is thought that slender snipe eels make vertical migrations within the water column, although this is poorly understood and it is not known whether this is done for feeding, reproduction or some other purpose. This species has a worldwide distribution, being found in all of the deep areas of the major seas and oceans of the world, excluding only the polar regions.

Feeding and Conservation Status

The slender snipe eel feeds on small crustaceans and tiny shrimps and prawns which are found in mid-water. It is thought to swim with its mouth open and the legs and antenna of the crustaceans becoming caught in the small, sharp teeth of the slender snipe eel. The larvae of the slender snipe eel are pelagic and the adult eels are believed to die shortly after spawning, although this has not been scientifically confirmed. There is a separate species of snipe eel called the Avocet snipe eel (Avocettina infans) which is found in similar areas. Neither species of snipe eel have any commercial value and numbers are thought to be stable. The International Union of Nature therefore classes the slender snipe eel as a species of Least Concern.

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