An Eely Problem

Images: 

I run a marine education field station on a small caye off the coast of Belize, and was leading a group snorkel in very unfavourable conditions when I spotted this guy on the rubble. The water temperature was between 70 and 75F, which was very low for this area - we were going through a cold front and had been for several days - and the water was very choppy with loads of sargassum floating around, and the visibility was less than 10ft. As I said, very unusual for us. I could only get a few (bad) photos of this eel(?) as I had to keep our group moving, but he was about a foot long and was being surged around on the coral rubble in water about 4ft deep.

Any help would be appreciated!

Stripe Eel

Looks like you found a member of the Snake Eel Family. The Caribbean is home to a bunch of species many of which are very common, but rarely seen due to their burrowing habits. Your eel looks like it could be the Stripe Eel (aka Onestripe Snake Eel), Aprognathodon platyventris. A google image search for the scientific name returns a few images that look similar to your eel. See what you think.

Louis

Snake Eels

Hi Louis,

Thanks for the response! I'll get right on looking it up. I was thinking snake eel, and came across the Twostripe Snake Eel, Callechelys bilinearis, but there are literally no pictures of it! Descriptions narrow it down by the dark line down the outside of the dorsal (vaguely visible in photos) - what do you think?

My knowledge of snake eels is regrettably spotty, so any help is appreciated!

Jen

Yes, Bohlke and Chaplin say

Yes, Bohlke and Chaplin say that the Twostripe Snake Eel is similar to the Onestripe, but they say that the Twostripe has two dark stripes (rather than one) running down each side of the body. It's hard to tell, but it looks like your eel may only have one stripe down each flank, which would suggest the Onestripe Snake Eel.

Louis

Stripe Eel

Good call Louis- yes, the One Stripe Snake Eel has one stripe laterally- with another down the dorsal and another below. But the clincher is the spotted head where you can hardly make out an eye- that is Aprognathodon platyventris. Based on larvae I have collected, they are not uncommon in Belize- but rarely seen.

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