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Species: Ophichthus spinicauda, Spinefin snake eel

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body - 14 dark bars
D origin behind pectoral by > pectoral length
tail 48-53% TL
center roof of mouth - 1 row teeth
rear pectoral - thickened rays

Ophichthus spinicauda (Norman, 1922)

Spinefin snake eel

Body cylindrical, robust, stouter than tail; tail short, 48-53% of TL; snout short, overhanging; eye moderate, over middle of mouth; front nostril a narrow tube; rear nostril entirely outside mouth, completely covered by a flap that has a flange around it; mouth large; teeth stout, conical, small, no fangs, larger fish with more, a few at top front exposed when mouth is closed; roof of mouth with  1-3 staggered pairs then 1 row of 10-12; jaws with 2 rows of teeth, top jaw with 15-24 in each row; lower jaw with 19-25 in each; dorsal origin behind pectorals by > than pectoral length, a short section of fin at rear raised and conspicuous due to thickened rays; pectoral fin 22-30% of head length, spatula like, with restricted base - opposite and above upper half of gill opening; tip of tail a blunt, finless point; lateral line complete, lines of each side of head connected by 2 canals with across top of head.

Yellow brown; body with 14 dark grey-brown saddles or bars equal in width to the spaces between them; snout dark, head with a broad diffuse bar above;  dorsal fin dark edged; rear of anal fin dark.

Reaches 108 cm.

On soft bottoms.

Depth range: 100-310 m, usually 235 m or deeper.

Cuba to the Orinoco.

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Bottom only
  • Sand & gravel
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
  • Mud
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Soft bottom only
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Data
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves
Egg Type
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
  • Data
Global Endemism
  • All species.
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Island (s)
  • Insular primarily
  • All species..
  • Caribbean endemic
  • Continent
  • GC endemic
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
IUCN Red List
  • Listed
  • Least concern
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 108
Depth Range Min
  • 100
Depth Range Max
  • 310