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First record of Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Ophichthidae: Myrophinae) from east coast of India, Bay of Bengal


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Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Bleeker, 1853) is reported for the first time from seven specimens collected from the Shankarpur fishing harbour (West Bengal), Visakhapatnam fishing harbour (Andhra Pradesh), and Chilika lagoon (Odisha). This paper reports Muraenichthys gymnopterus for the first time from the east coast of India as well as from Chilika lagoon. © 2019, National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR). All rights reserved.
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Indian Journal of Geo Marine Sciences
Vol. 48 (03), March 2019, pp. 283-285
First record of Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Ophichthidae: Myrophinae) from east
coast of India, Bay of Bengal
Anil Mohapatra1*, Dipanjan Ray2, & Subhrendu Sekhar Mishra3
1Estuarine Biology Regional Centre, Zoological Survey of India, Gopalpur-on-Sea, Ganjam, Odisha
2 Bajkul Milani Mahavidyalaya, Kismat Bajkul, Purba Medinipur, West Bengal, India
3Marine Fish Section, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata
Received 05 August 2017; revised 22 November 2018
Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Bleeker, 1853) is reported for the first time from seven specimens collected from the
Shankarpur fishing harbour (West Bengal), Visakhapatnam fishing harbour (Andhra Pradesh), and Chilika lagoon (Odisha).
This paper reports Muraenichthys gymnopterus for the first time from the east coast of India as well as from Chilika lagoon.
[Keywords: Anguilliformes; Chilika lagoon; West Bengal coast; Andhra Pradesh coast]
The snake eel and worm eel fish family
Ophichthidae comprises 59 genera. Among these, 45
genera belong to the subfamily Ophichthinae (tail tip
hard, pointed and finless; known as snake eels) 1-3 and
14 genera to the subfamily Myrophinae (tail tip
flexible and confluent with dorsal and anal fins;
known as worm eel) 4-5. All together, they comprise
more than 260 species in the family Ophichthidae,
distributed in the tropical and subtropical seas
throughout the world6.
The genus Muraenichthys Bleeker (Ophichthidae:
Myrophinae) comprise eight valid species7 in tropical,
temperate and subtropical waters of Indo-Pacific
Ocean. Scolecenchelys Ogilby, previously treated
as a subgenus of Muraenichthys Bleeker, has been
elevated and distinguished from the latter by Castle &
McCosker8. Accordingly, Muraenichthys Bleeker was
distinguished in having single pore between nostrils;
posterior nostril opening outside of mouth, a hole
along upper lip preceded by a flap; teeth blunt, jaw
teeth in bands; and intermaxillary teeth in a broad
patch. However, Hibino and Kimura7 re-defined the
genus Muraenichthys and observed that tooth shape
and arrangement in the genus show variations and
three pre-opercular sensory pores present in all
species belonging to the genus.
In Indian waters, the genus Muraenichthys is
represented by two species. M. gymnopterus
(Bleeker, 1853) has been recorded from Mumbai9,
while M. schultzei Bleeker, 1857 from Andaman
Islands10 and from Rupan, Okha and Kiew Point
(Gujarat coast)11. During the collection of fishes from
the east coast of India for the study of the
Anguilliform eel diversity in Indian waters, seven
specimens of eels belonging to the genus
Muraenichthys were collected and identification
confirmed as M. gymnopterus. This paper reports
the occurrence of Muraenichthys gymnopterus
(Bleeker, 1853), for the first time from the east
coast of India, Bay of Bengal and also from the
Chilika lagoon.
Materials and Methods
Five specimens were collected from Shankarpur
fishing harbor of West Bengal (MARC/ZSI/F3031,
F3861; TL: 334-422 mm), one specimen from
Visakhapatnam fishing harbour, Andhra Pradesh
(MARC/ZSI/F4451; TL:249 mm) and one specimen
from Chilika lagoon (MARC/ZSI/F4789; TL: 270 mm).
The detailed measurements were carried out
according to Castle and McCosker2. Fresh
photographs were taken before the preservation in
10% formalin. Vertebral count was made by
digital X-ray. Vertebral count was done following
Bohlke12. Teeth and head pores were counted
using a Leica EZ4 microscope. Specimens were
deposited in the Museum of MARC, ZSI, Digha.
INDIAN J. MAR. SCI., VOL. 48, NO. 03, MARCH 2019
Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Bleeker, 1853):
Body elongated, sub-cylindrical anteriorly and
compressed posteriorly (Fig. 1). Mouth large, inferior,
rictus reaches posterior margin of eyes; snout blunt
and broad; eyes located anterior to mid-jaw; anterior
nostril tubular, and posterior nostril above upper lip
and opens outside the mouth with a short flap.
Mid-lateral gill opening constricted and pectoral fin
absent. Teeth present on intermaxilla, jaws and
vomer; teeth in jaws blunt, granular and multiserial;
maxillary teeth in two rows, and vomerine teeth in
three rows that get reduced to two rows posteriorly.
Teeth in lower jaws anteriorly in four rows and
continued in two rows posteriorly. Cephalic sensory
pores small but conspicuous: 5 infraorbital pores
(including a single pore between anterior and
posterior nostril), 5 supraorbital pores, 3 preopercular
pores, and 6 mandibular pores. MVF: 30–43–130.
The details of morphometric measurement in
percentage of total length (TL) and head length (HL)
are presented in Table 1.
In fresh, pale brownish dorsally and whitish
ventrally. On preservation, colour fades to pale white.
Reported from China to Indonesia13, West coast of
India (Arabian Sea): Mumbai9, Gujarat11and
Andaman Islands10. The present paper first time
reports this species from the east coast of India,
Bay of Bengal as well as from Chilika lagoon.
Table 1 Morphometric measurement of Muraenichthys
gymnopterus (Bleeker, 1853) in percentage of TL and HL.
In percentage of TL
Head length: 12.57 – 13.63
Trunk length: 27.48–29.02
Tail length: 56.77–57.48
Preanal length: 38.1–42.96
Predorsal length: 36.07–38.36
Depth at gill opening: 3.5–4.2
Depth at anus: 2.9–3.6
In percentage of HL
Snout length: 11.92–12.38
Upper Jaw: 29.09–30.45
Eye diameter: 3.85–4.36
Interorbital space: 12.5–13.6
Gill opening: 10.41–11.53
Day10 first reported the only species of the genus
Muraenichthys, M. schultzei Bleeker, from Andaman
Islands, and subsequently Lal Mohan11 recorded it
from Gujarat coast. Muraenichthys gymnopterus was
reported only once from Mumbai9 along the Indian
coast. However, Froese and Pauly14 indicated this
occurrence report as questionable; and the confirmed
records are available only from the Western Pacific
(China, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan and
Viet Nam). Bal and Mohamed9 distinguished this
species from other eels in having ‘valve-like posterior
nostril in the upper lip beneath eye’; however there
was no mention of teeth pattern or position of
cephalic pores. M. gymnopterus can be easily
distinguished from other congeners due to the
presence of blunt or weakly pointed, granular and
multiserial teeth in jaws15; while in the others, upper
jaw teeth are uniserial to triserial (upper jaw teeth are
triserial only in M. schultzei, in which lower jaw teeth
are biserial). All the species under the genus
Muraenichthys (M. gymnotus Bleeker, M. laticaudata
Ogilby and M. xorae Smith) listed from South Africa
are currently included as members of the genus
Scolecenchelys following recent revision8,15. The only
species described from Sri Lanka, Chilorhinus
(Muraenichthys) vermiformis Peters also belongs to
this genus. The only Muraenichthys species known
from Sri Lanka is M. velinasalis, described very
recently by Hibino & Kimura7. However, the other
similar species known from the west coast of India is
Skythrenchelys zabra Castle and McCosker,
Fig. 1 — Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Bleeker, 1853)
characterized in having ‘posterior nostril a hole with a
small anterior flap, entirely above the margin of upper
lip and slightly below in advance of orbit’8. Although
the authors had no opportunity to examine the
specimen, it may be possible that the specimen of Bal
and Mohamed9 represents Skythrenchelys zabra,
which was originally described from Kerala coast
along the west coast of India8. If the record of
M. gymnopterus from Mumbai coast9 is erroneous, the
present report forms the first report of the species
from Indian coast amounting to range extension from
Western Pacific westward to the east coast of India,
Bay of Bengal and Chilika lagoon.
The authors thank Dr. Kailash Chandra, Director,
Zoological Survey of India, for providing the
necessary working facilities and Dr. David G. Smith
(Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA) and
Dr. John E. McCosker (California Academy of
Sciences, San Francisco, USA) for their valuable help
in providing specific literature.
1 McCosker J.E., Snake-eels of the genus Xyrias
(Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae). Cybium 22 (1998) 7-13.
2 McCosker J.E., Pisces Anguilliformes: Deepwater snake eels
(Ophichthidae) from the New Caledonia region, Southwest
Pacific Ocean. In: Crosnier A. (ed.) Résultats des
Campagnes MUSORSTOM. Mémoires du Muséum national
d’Histoirenaturelle (N. S.) (Série A) Zoologie 20 (180)
(1999) 571-588.
3 McCosker J.E., Luthulenchelys heemstraorum, a new genus
and species of snake eel (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae)
from Kwa Zulu-Natal, with comments on Ophichthus
rutidoderma (Bleeker, 1853) and its synonyms. Smithiana
Bulletin 2007 (2007) 3-7.
4 McCosker J.E., Ide S., Endo H., Three new species of
ophichthid eels (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) from Japan.
Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science,
Series A, Zoology, Supplement 6 (2012) 1-16.
5 Hibino Y., McCosker J. E. & Kimura S., Redescription of a
rare worm eel, Muraenichthys macrostomus Bleeker 1864,
a senior synonym of Skythrenchelys lentigenosa Castle
and McCosker 1999 (Anguilliformes: Ophichthydae:
Myrophinae), Ichthyological Research 60 (2013): 227-231.
6 Ray D., Mohapatra A., Biswa, S., Satpathy K.K. & Mishra
S.S., First record of the Evermann’s snake eel, Ophichthus
lithinus (Actinopterygii: Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae),
from northern Indian Ocean, Actaichthyologica et piscatoria
45 (2015) 89-93.
7 Hibino Y. & Kimura S., A new species of Muraenichthys
(Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) from the Indo-Pacific, with
revised generic diagnosis, Zootaxa 4060 (2015) 62-70.
8 Castle P.H.J. & McCosker J.E., A new genus and two new
species of myrophine worm-eels, with comments on
Muraenichthys and Scolecenchelys (Anguilliformes:
Ophicthidae), Rec. Aust. Mus. 51 (2-3) (1999)113-122.
9 Bal D.V. and Mohamed K.H., A systematic account of the
eels of Bombay. Journal of the Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 54
(1957) 732-740.
10 Day F., On the fishes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1870 (1871) 677-705.
11 Lal Mohan R.S., The distributional records of Muraenichthys
schultzei Bleeker from Gujarat coast. Central Marine Fishery
Research Institution, Mandapam camp (1964.).
12 Bohlke E.B., Vertebral formulae of type specimens of eels.
Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Science of
Philadelphia 134 (1982) 31-49.
13 Kottelat M., A.J. Whitten, S.N. Kartikasari & S.
Wirjoatmodjo, 1993. Freshwater fishes of Western Indonesia
and Sulawesi. Periplus Editions, Hong Kong. 221 p.
14 Froese R. & Pauly D. (eds), FishBase. World Wide Web
electronic publication. Available at:
(accessed 8 February 2017).
15 Hibino Y., Ho CH. & Kimura S., A new genus and species of
worm eels, Sympenchelys taiwanensis (Anguilliformes:
Ophichthidae: Myrophinae), from the northwestern Pacific
Ocean. Zootaxa 4060 (2015): 041-048.
... Distribution. Indo-Pacific Ocean, including Bay of Bengal, Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji, Taiwan, and Japan (Bleeker 1853a(Bleeker , b, 1864aGünther 1870;Weber and de Beaufort 1916;Herre 1923;Kottelat et al. 1993;McCosker 2014;Ho et al. 2015;Hibino and Kimura 2015;Hibino et al. 2019;Mohapatra et al. 2019;present study). ...
Full-text available
A single specimen of Muraenichthys gymnopterus (Bleeker, 1853) was collected from a sandy intertidal flat having rocks and dead corals in the estuarine area of Nagura Amparu, Ishigaki-jima Island, southern Japan, in October 2020. This specimen collection constitutes the first record of M. gymnopterus from Japanese waters. In this study, the diagnostic characters between M. gymnopterus and M. hattae Jordan and Snyder, 1901 are provided, based on our morphological observations of 37 specimens, including Okinawan specimen, and previous studies, as follows: head length [M. gymnopterus 11.8-15.0% of total length (TL) vs. M. hattae 9.4-11.0%], trunk length (24-25.4% of TL vs. 28-31%), the horizontal distance from the dorsal-fin origin to a vertical line through the anus 73-87% of head length vs. 13-49%), the number of vertebrae (total 129-130 vs. 148-155; predorsal 30 vs. 47-53; preanal 41-44 vs. 51-55), the number of the lateral-line pores before the anus (43-45 vs. 51-55). Additionally, the body depth at the gill opening in TL and the trunk length in TL can also be used to distinguish between these two species (2.8-3.7% of TL vs. 1.4-3.0%). Although M. gymnopterus has previously been reported from tropical to temperate regions, we suspect that the records from temperate regions are based on misidentifica-tion of M. hattae.
... In the present study, we report the species Moringua raitaborua, genus Moringua and also the family Moringuidae for the first time from Chilika lagoon and concluded that the total number of fin fish species currently known from Chilika lagoon increase to 345 which belongs to 224 genera, 94 families, and 23 orders. With the report of the current species, the Anguilliformes diversity of the Chilika lagoon increased to 15 species belonging to the 12 genera and 05 families (Suresh et al. 2018;Mohapatra et al. 2018;Mohapatra et al. 2019a;Mohapatra et al. 2019b;Mohapatra et al. 2019c;Mishra et al. 2019). ...
Full-text available
The present article reports the new distribution of the species Moringua raitaborua (Hamilton, 1822) which represent the first occurrence of the genus Moringua from the Chilika lagoon along with morphometric and meristic details of the species. During the Chilika survey, two specimens of the said species were collected from the southern sector of Chilika lagoon. The species is characterized by the presence of 101 vertebrae, body depth 34.9–36.4 in total length, and head length 8.9–9.2 in total length.
The rare and heretofore monotypic snake-eel genus Xyrias (Jordan & Snyder, 1901) is expanded to include X. revulsus Jordan & Snyder (1901), Ophichthus multiserialis Norman (1939) and Ophisurus guineensis Blache (1975). A key to the species, and diagnoses and distributional data are provided, including the first records of X. multiserialis from Somalia and X. revulsus from the Philippines and South Africa.
A new worm eel (Ophichthidae, Myrophinae), Muraenichthys velinasalis, is described based on five specimens (97.9-281.0 mm of total length) collected from Taiwan, Philippines, northeastern Australia, Vanuatu, and Sri Lanka. Muranichthys velinasalis is most similar to M. philippinensis and M. schultzei in the position of the dorsal-fin origin behind a vertical through mid-anus, but can be easily distinguished from the latter two species by the condition of the posterior nostril, unique character of M. velinasalis within Muraenichthys, and by the shape of the teeth on the innermost row of the upper jaw (relatively robust and slightly pointed vs. slender and pointed), arrangement of upper-jaw teeth (irregularly biserial anteriorly and uniserial posteriorly vs. completely uniserial in M. philippinensis, biserial or triserial in M. schultzei), and its more numerous or fewer preanal and total vertebrae (44-51 vs. 59-60 in M. philippinensis, 42-47 in M. schultzei; 136-139 vs. 128-130 in M. philippinensis, 119-128 in M. schultzei). The genus Muraenichthys is re-defined based on all currently valid species by the following combination of characters: eyes located anterior to mid-jaw; inner hole of posterior nostril above upper lip, and outer hole usually outside of mouth, with a prominent but short projected flap anteriorly; a single pore between anterior and posterior nostrils; three preopercular pores; teeth on jaws, vomer, and intermaxillary area; tooth shape variable, blunt to pointed but not distinctly recurved and tooth length equal or less than a half of eye diameter; teeth on jaws and vomer arranged in one to five rows; gill opening constricted, its height<170% of eye diameter; pectoral fins absent.
The rare worm eel Muraenichthys macrostomus Bleeker 1864 is redescribed as a valid species belonging to the genus Skythrenchelys Castle and McCosker 1999. Although the existence of the holotype of M. macrostomus has been hitherto considered as unknown, we have determined that Bleeker specimen BMNH 1867.11.28.313 is the holotype. It has large recurved teeth, a large unconstricted gill opening, and the orbit located anterior to midjaw, diagnostic characters of the genus Skythrenchelys. Because the morphological characters of the holotype agree well with those of Skythrenchelys lentiginosa Castle and McCosker 1999, we consider the former species to be a senior synonym of the latter. Most museum specimens currently labeled as M. macrostomus are not identifiable with S. macrostoma.
Skythrenchelys n.gen. differs from other myrophine ophichthids in the condition of its gill openings (moderately elongate and below lateral midline), dentition (large, conical and uniserial), posterior nostril (entirely outside mouth), and other characters. Skythrenchelys zabra n.sp., the type species, is described from India, the Philippines, Indonesia and northern Australia; S. lentiginosa n.sp. is described from the Red Sea. Scolecenchelys Ogilby, previously a subgenus of Muraenichthys Bleeker, is generically distinct on the basis of differences in dentition (teeth conical and uniserial or biserial vs blunt and multiserial), cephalic pores (2 pores between anterior and posterior nostrils vs 1 pore), and its posterior nostril condition (within vs outside mouth). Valid species of Muraenichthys and Scolecenchelys and their synonyms are identified. CASTLE, P.H.J., & JOHN E. MCCOSKER, 1999. A new genus and two new species of myrophine worm-eels, with comments on Muraenichthys and Scolecenchelys (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae). Records of the Australian Museum 51(2): 113–122. The most recent revision of the snake-eel and worm-eel family Ophichthidae (McCosker et al., 1989) recognised 55 genera, including 44 in the Subfamily Ophichthinae and 11 in the Myrophinae. The family is worldwide in distribution, principally but not exclusively in inshore waters of tropical seas. Its members mainly live burrowed tail first in soft sediments and readily avoid capture by most sampling methods, though they are variously vulnerable to ichthyocides. This may explain why some of the approximately 250 ophichthid species are known from few or even single specimens. Ophichthids have distinctive leptocephali, many of which were documented in the Atlantic by Leiby (1989), though most have not yet been identified.
Luthulenchelys heemstraorum genus and species novum, subfamily Ophichthinae, tribe Ophichthini, is described from a 472 mm eel trawled off Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in 450–460 m. Luthulenchelys differs from all known ophichthids in having the following suite of characters: an extremely elongate body, long tail, dorsal-fin origin in anterior trunk region, an elongate pectoral fin, posterior eye/jaw location, blunt snout, posterior nostril within upper lip, slender dentition, a single vomerine tooth, uniquely developed lateral-line ossicles, and five gill arches, with a very reduced fifth ceratobranchial. Several changes in taxonomy are proposed: Ophisurus lumbricoides Bleeker 1853, Ophisurus rutidodermatoides Bleeker 1853, and Ophichthus derbyensis Whitley 1941 are junior synonyms of Ophichthus rutidoderma (Bleeker 1853); Sphagebranchus lumbricoides Bleeker 1864 is a species of Yirrkala.
Deepwater snake eels (Ophichthidae) from the New Caledonia region, Southwest Pacific Ocean
  • J E Mccosker
  • Pisces Anguilliformes
McCosker J.E., Pisces Anguilliformes: Deepwater snake eels (Ophichthidae) from the New Caledonia region, Southwest Pacific Ocean. In: Crosnier A. (ed.) Résultats des Campagnes MUSORSTOM. Mémoires du Muséum national d'Histoirenaturelle (N. S.) (Série A) Zoologie 20 (180) (1999) 571-588.
First record of the Evermann's snake eel
  • D Ray
  • A Mohapatra
  • S Biswa
  • K K Satpathy
  • S S Mishra
Ray D., Mohapatra A., Biswa, S., Satpathy K.K. & Mishra S.S., First record of the Evermann's snake eel, Ophichthus lithinus (Actinopterygii: Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae), from northern Indian Ocean, Actaichthyologica et piscatoria 45 (2015) 89-93.