Monday 18 January 2016

Neenchelys gracilis: A new species of Worm Eel from Taiwan.

Worm Eels, Ophichthidae, are burrowing Eels found in tropical and temperate waters from the coastal shallows to depths of about 750 m, with some species found in freshwater ecosystems. They range from about 10 cm to about 3 m in length, and are highly adapted to their burrowing lifestyle, with many species having lost their fins completely, with larger species occasionally mistaken for Sea Snakes.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 24 December 2015 Hsuan-Ching Ho of the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium and Institute of Marine Biology at the National Dong Hwa University and Kar-Hoe Loh of the Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Malaya describe a new species of Worm Eel from off the coast of Dong-gang on the southeast coast of Taiwan.

The new species is placed in the genus Neenchelys and given the specific name gracilis, meaning slender. The species is described from a single specimen caught in a otter trawl at a depth of about 400 m. The specimen is 429 mm in length, with a fringe of cirri around its nostrils; it has small gill openings and has almost completely lost its pectoral fins (paired fins behind the gills). It is a brownish grey colour.

 Neenchelys gracilis. Lateral view of whole fish. Bars indicate the locality of the dorsal-fin origin (left) and the anus (right). Ho & Loh (2015).

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