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Overview

Brief Summary

The Snipe Eels (family Nemichthyidae) are delicate, elongate, ribbonlike deep-sea eels with compressed bodies and extremely long tapering tails. Their long, slender beaklike jaws, with inward pointing teeth, are curved, bending away from each other and not closing completely (the beak disappears in mature males, which at one time were believed to represent a distinct genus!). They lack scales and the dorsal fin extends far forward, almost to the head. Their anal fins are higher than their dorsal fins. The snout is shorter in males than in females. The anus is located far forward, at the throat, below or just behind the pectoral fin. These slender eels may exceed 120 cm in length. According to Eschmeyer and Herald (1983), snipe eels apparently orient themselves vertically in the water with the mouth pointing upward and are thought to feed on pelagic crustaceans, capturing them by entangling the crustaceans’ antennae in their jaws. (Eschmeyer and Herald 1983; Robins and Ray 1986; Charter 1996)

All nine described snipe eel species inhabit relatively deep midwaters. In the Atlantic off North America, just one snipe eel, Nemichthys scolopaceus (Slender Snipe Eel), enters shelf waters. Nemichthys species have filamentous tails and a lateral line consisting of three rows of pores. They may have as many as 750 vertebrae. Nemichthys scolopaceus is brownish or gray with darker brown fine speckling. For technical descriptions, see Charter (1996) and the online Fishes of the NE Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

In the western Atlantic, this species is found from Nova Scotia (Canada) and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil and in the eastern Pacific it is found from British Columbia (Canada) to Peru, including the Gulf of California, but the species is found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters. The Slender Snipe Eel is usually found between 200-500 m depth, but sometimes much deeper, and it occasionally occurs in shallower waters in the northern part of its range. (Castle 1986; Robins and Ray 1986; Charter 1996)

The Slender Snipe Eel is restricted to the ocean throughout its life cycle, unlike some other eels. At maturity, both sexes lose their teeth, although only males lose them all. These eels mature in deep water, but the immature stages (leptocephali) are found in shallow water near the shore. These eels may be semelparous, i.e., dying after spawning once. (Finch 1990 and references therein) Charter (1996) describes the leptocephali of this and other snipe eels.

  • Castle, P.H.J. 1986. Nemichthyidae. pp. 193-194 in M.M. Smith and P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
  • Charter, S.R. (1996). Nemichthyidae: snipe eels. p. 122-129. In H.G. Moser (ed.) The early stages of fishes in the California Current region. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) Atlas No. 33. http://www.calcofi.org/publications/atlases/CalCOFI_Atlas_33.pdf
  • Eschmeyer, W.N. and E.S. Herald. 1983. A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Finch, C.E. 1990. Longevity, Senescence, and the Genome. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray. 1986. A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Nielsen, J.G. 1984. Nemichthyidae (including Avocettinopsidae). pp. 551-554 in P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. 2. UNESCO, Paris. Online version: http://species-identification.org/species.php?species_group=fnam&menuentry=inleiding&id=2&tab=foto
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Occur in midwater, usually below 400 m and occasionally in shallow water in the northern part of its range. Feed on crustaceans while swimming with its mouth open (Ref. 5377). Mesopelagic (Ref. 58302) and bathypelagic (Ref. 58426). Oviparous, with planktonic leptocephali (Ref. 32364). Degenerative changes in males and females suggest semelparity (Ref. 32364). Minimum depth from Ref. 58018.
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Description

 Nemichthys scolopaceus has an extremely elongate body that can reach up to 1.3 m in length. The body ends in a long narrow filament. Its jaws form a long and narrow snout with small teeth, although females have a very short snout. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are joined together. Nemichthys scolopaceus can be recognised by its more or less pigmented dark brown body and its numerous fine teeth. The anal fin and tips of the pectoral fins are almost black in colour.
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Banquereau Bank to the Caribbean Sea
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Worldwide in tropical and temperate seas. Western Atlantic: Nova Scotia, Canada and northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Spain to South Africa, including western Mediterranean (Ref. 3247); reported from Iceland (Ref. 12462). Regularly found in the Skagerrak (Ref. 35387). Northwest Pacific: Japan (Ref. 6885) and Arafura Sea (Ref. 9819). Eastern Pacific: Alaska (Ref. 6885) to Chile (Ref. 9068), including the Gulf of California (Ref. 32364).
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Worldwide in tropical and temperate seas, including Mediterranean Sea, Hawaiian Islands.
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Western Atlantic: in deep water, also in the South Atlantic. Eastern Atlantic: found near the Azores, near Madeira, off the Cape Verde Island, off West Africa; Pacific: off of New Guinea.
  • Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953; Charter, S.R., 1996; Maigret, J. and B. Ly, 1986; Nielsen, J.G. and D.G. Smith, 1978.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Analspines: 0
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Size

Maximum size: 1000 mm NG
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Max. size

130 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 35388))
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to 130.0 cm TL (male/unsexed).
  • Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953; Charter, S.R., 1996; Maigret, J. and B. Ly, 1986; Nielsen, J.G. and D.G. Smith, 1978.
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Diagnostic Description

Jaws long (Ref. 13608). Posterior end of body narrow, ending as a long filament (Ref. 13608). Dorsal fin with about 350 rays; caudal fin not recognizable; anal fin with about 320 (Ref. 6885). Dark brown or grey in color, often darker below (Ref. 3248); anal fin and tips of pectoral fins almost black (Ref. 6885).
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Type Information

Lectotype; Syntype for Nemichthys scolopaceus
Catalog Number: USNM 153591
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Year Collected: 1891
Locality: Off Panama, Panama, Pacific
Depth (m): 838
Vessel: Albatross
  • Lectotype: Nielsen, J. G. & Smith, D. G. 1978. Dana Report. No. 88: 69.; Garman, S. 1899. Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. 24: 324.; Syntype: Nielsen, J. G. & Smith, D. G. 1978. Dana Report. No. 88: 69.; Garman, S. 1899. Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. 24: 324.
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Type for Nemichthys scolopaceus
Catalog Number: USNM 51589
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Preparation: Illustration
Year Collected: 1902
Locality: Vicinity of Modu Manu, or Bird Island: Center of Bird Island, S. 32 Deg., W. 12.8 (Estimated That Trawl Took Bottom At About 800 Fms. Depth, and Was Dragged Up Steep Slope), Hawaii, United States, Hawaiian Islands, Pacific
Depth (m): 1463 to 572
Vessel: Albatross
  • Type: Gilbert, C. H. 1905. Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission. 23 (for 1903): 587, fig. 234.
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Paratype for Nemichthys scolopaceus
Catalog Number: USNM 201410
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Year Collected: 1967
Locality: Off Coast of Madeira, Madeira Islands, Atlantic
Depth (m): 1000
  • Paratype: Kanazawa, R. H. & Maul, G. E. 1967. Bocagiana. (No. 12): 3.
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Type for Nemichthys scolopaceus
Catalog Number: USNM 27399
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Collector(s): D. Jordan
Year Collected: 1880
Locality: Harbor At Port Gamble, Washington, Washington, United States, Pacific
  • Type: Jordan, D. S. & Gilbert, C. H. 1881. Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 3 (170): 409.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Marine

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Known from seamounts and knolls
  • Stocks, K. 2009. Seamounts Online: an online information system for seamount biology. Version 2009-1. World Wide Web electronic publication.
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nektonic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Occasionally found in Canadian Atlantic waters. Found at depths of 91- 2000 m, usually below 400 m.
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Environment

bathypelagic; marine; depth range 0 - 3656 m (Ref. 58426), usually 100 - 1000 m (Ref. 58302)
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Depth range based on 494 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 403 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 4332
  Temperature range (°C): 1.433 - 27.202
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.180 - 46.071
  Salinity (PPS): 32.279 - 38.654
  Oxygen (ml/l): 0.214 - 7.038
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.035 - 3.294
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.885 - 163.066

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 4332

Temperature range (°C): 1.433 - 27.202

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.180 - 46.071

Salinity (PPS): 32.279 - 38.654

Oxygen (ml/l): 0.214 - 7.038

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.035 - 3.294

Silicate (umol/l): 0.885 - 163.066
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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 The slender snipe eel is a deep sea, bathypelagic species occuring from the surface down to many hundred meters in depth.
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Depth: 200 - 2000m.
From 200 to 2000 meters.

Habitat: bathypelagic.
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Bathypelagic; marine; depth range 91 - 2000 m. Typically, below 400 m, but may be in shallower water in the northern part of its range.
  • Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953; Charter, S.R., 1996; Maigret, J. and B. Ly, 1986; Nielsen, J.G. and D.G. Smith, 1978.
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Occur in midwater, usually below 400 m and occasionally in shallow water in the northern part of its range. Feed on crustaceans while swimming with its mouth open (Ref. 5377).
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Crustaceans while swimming with its mouth open.
  • Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953; Charter, S.R., 1996; Maigret, J. and B. Ly, 1986; Nielsen, J.G. and D.G. Smith, 1978.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Diet

Feed on crustaceans while swimming with its mouth open
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Life Cycle

Oviparous (Ref. 3247).
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Reproduction

Oviparous, may be semelparous.
  • Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953; Charter, S.R., 1996; Maigret, J. and B. Ly, 1986; Nielsen, J.G. and D.G. Smith, 1978.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Nemichthys scolopaceus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTATATCTAGTATTTGGTGCCTGAGCCGGAATGGTGGGCACTGCACTAAGCCTACTAATCCGTGCTGAACTAAGTCAGCCTGGAGCCCTCCTTGGAGACGACCAGATTTATAATGTAATTGTTACGGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTAATGCCAGTAATAATTGGGGGGTTTGGCAATTGACTCATCCCGCTAATAATCGGTGCCCCGGACATAGCATTTCCCCGAATGAATAACATAAGCTTCTGGCTTCTACCGCCCTCGTTCCTTCTACTGCTAGCGTCTTCAGGAGTAGAAGCGGGTGCAGGCACAGGTTGAACAGTATACCCACCCCTATCTGGAAACTTGGCTCACGCTGGAGCGTCAGTTGACCTTACAATTTTTTCACTCCACCTTGCAGGTGTCTCGTCCATTTTGGGGGCCATTAATTTCATTACCACTATTATTAACATGAAACCCCCAGCCATCACACAATATCAAACACCCTTGTTCGTATGGGCTGTATTAGTAACGGCCGTACTGCTACTTCTATCTCTACCAGTCCTAGCTGCAGGAATCACAATACTTTTAACTGACCGAAACTTGAATACAACTTTCTTCGACCCAGCGGGAGGGGGGGACCCAATCCTTTATCAACA
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Nemichthys scolopaceus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 30
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Threats

Not Evaluated
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: of no interest
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Wikipedia

Slender snipe eel

The slender snipe eel, Nemichthys scolopaceus, sometimes referred to as the deep sea duck, is a fish that can weigh only a few ounces, yet reach 5 feet or 1.5 m in length. Features include a bird-like beak with curving tips, covered with tiny hooked teeth, which they use to sweep through the water to catch shrimp and other crustaceans. It has a lifespan of ten years.

It has more vertebrae in its backbone than any other animal, around 750. However, its anus has moved forward during its evolution and is now located on its throat. Its larvae are shaped like leaves, which actually get smaller before transforming into adults.

Many specimens found in museums were spat up from larger fish that were caught in trawls.

References

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