Temporal range: 56–0 Ma

Early Eocene to Present[1]

Aprognathodon platyventris
Myrichthys ocellatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Anguilliformes
Family: Ophichthidae
Günther, 1870

Ophichthidae is a family of fish in the order Anguilliformes, commonly known as the Snake eels. The term "Ophichthidae" comes from Greek ophis ("serpent") and ichthys ("fish"). Snake eels are also burrowing eels, they are named for their physical appearance, they have long, cylindrical snakelike bodies.[2] This family is found worldwide in tropical to warm temperate waters. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, from coastal shallows and even rivers, to depths of above 800 m (2,600 ft).[3] Most species are bottom dwellers, hiding in mud or sand to capture their prey of crustaceans and small fish, but some are pelagic.[4]

These species range from 5 cm (2.0 in) to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) or more in length. Many species lack fins altogether, improving their ability to burrow into the substrate like worms. They are often spotted or striped in colour, mimicking the appearance of venomous sea snakes to deter predators.[4] Often, they are washed ashore by large storms.


There are currently 62 recognized genera in this family:


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ophichthidae.
  1. Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2016). "Ophichthidae" in FishBase. June 2016 version.
  2. Goodson, G. (1988). Fishes of the Pacific Coast: Alaska to Peru, Including the Gulf of California and the Galapagos Islands. Stanford University Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0804713856.
  3. 1 2 Fricke, R., Golani, D. & Appelbaum-Golani, B. (2015): Suculentophichthus nasus, a new genus and new species of snake eel from the northern Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea (Teleostei: Ophichthidae). Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation, 16: 56–66.
  4. 1 2 McCosker, J.E. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., eds. Encyclopedia of Fishes, Second Edition. Academic Press. pp. 87–89. ISBN 978-0125476652.
  5. McCosker, J.E., Loh, K.-H., Lin, J. & Chen, H.-M. (2012): Pylorobranchus hoi, a New Genus and Species of Myrophine Worm-Eel from Taiwan (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae). Zoological Studies, 51 (7): 1188-1194.
  6. Hibino, Y., Ho, H.-C. & Kimura, S. (2015): A new genus and species of worm eels, Sympenchelys taiwanensis (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae: Myrophinae), from the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Zootaxa, 4060 (1): 41–48.
  7. McCosker, J.E. & Okamoto, M. (2016): Chauligenion camelopardalis, a New Genus and Species of Deepwater Snake Eel (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) from the East China Sea. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, 63 (9): 321-328.
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