Snipe eels

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Snipe eels
Nemichthys curvirostris

Nemichthys curvirostris

Class : Ray fins (Actinopterygii)
Subclass : Neuflosser (Neopterygii)
Subclass : Real bony fish (Teleostei)
Cohort : Elopomorpha
Order : Eel-like (Anguilliformes)
Family : Snipe eels
Scientific name
Kaup , 1859

The snipe eels (Nemichthyidae) are a family of eel-like fish. The species in the family are wide-eyed and extremely elongated. The rear end of the body is nothing more than the skin-covered extension of the spine and the lateral lines (there are similar things in other orders - it has evidently proven itself in recognizing predators "from behind"). Only a few completely preserved specimens are known to date. Approx. 770 vertebrae were counted in an uninjured animal - the highest number of vertebrae that has ever been found in an animal.


This family got the name Schnepfeneale from the fact that their representatives have long, widely spread jaws, which are reminiscent of the beak shape of the snipe . Until recently it was thought that there were two groups of snipe eels, one with very long, wide jaws and one with very short, wide jaws. Today we know for sure that the animals with short jaws are males and those with long ones are females and young eels of both sexes. The inside and outside of the jaws are covered with small, backward-facing teeth, but only until sexual maturity is reached. Then they lose a large part of their teeth and take in little food. Presumably they die after reproduction.

The dorsal and anal fins extend almost the entire length of the body. The open question of how snipe eels eat, since the jaws can only be closed at the back. The snipe eels could occasionally be observed from deep-sea boats. They assumed a vertical, head-down position in the water, with the body either held still or swaying slightly to and fro.


On the basis of the stomach contents of the few caught specimens, one can conclude that the snipe eel feeds mainly on deep-sea shrimp . These prey have very long antennae and legs (with a similar purpose to the long tail of an eel). It is assumed that the snipe eels get their prey when the shrimp get caught with their long antennae and legs on the teeth that are on the inside or outside. Something similar can already be seen in Perkarina ( Percarina demidoffii , Percidae) with its “all around” toothed lower jaw (Seeley 1886), on which the long-legged floating shrimp ( Mysidacea ) get caught .

Reproduction and development

The Leptocephalus larvae of this family are easy to recognize by their unusually thin body and long, thread-like tail. At a length of 30 cm, the larvae transform into young eels.


Schnepfeneale occur in all three main oceans in the deep sea. They live there in free water (meso- and bathypelagic).


There are nine species in three genera:


Web links

Commons : Schnepfeneale  - Collection of images, videos and audio files