|Image: NOAA Photo Library|
Snipe Eels are 9 species in the Nemichthyidae family. They're found in oceans all over the world, usually in the hazy depths of the twilight zone below 200 metres (660 ft) depth. Their most obvious feature is their body; long, incredibly slim and ending in a scrawny thread that continues on and on for no discernible reason. This is where the family name comes from: Nemichthys means "filament fish".
|Image: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History|
Slender Snipe Eel
However, you'll notice that there's very little meat on any of those bones, so while the Slender Snipe can reach over 1.2 metres (4 feet) in length, it weighs just a few ounces. About the same as a hamster!
It's also why they're called Snipe Eels, since snipes are birds with long, slender bills. They don't curve like that, though. So... Injured-snipe Eel? Snipe-that-flew-into-a-window Eel?
These slender jaws are covered in tiny, hooked teeth which get entangled in the antennae of tasty crustaceans. The Snipe Eel eats and then... things get weird. The Slender Snipe Eel has its anus right up near its throat, while several other species have it much further back like, you know, normal. Never has the old adage "whoever smelt it, dealt it" been more true.
Of course it's weird to have an anus in your neck, but it's also pretty odd to be closely related to a bunch of other species that don't. In other words, the Nemichthyidae family appears to suffer from some kind of "roving anus" syndrome. When will THAT make it into the medical dramas?
|Image: President and Fellows of Harvard College|
Spotted Snipe Eel
They start to lose some of their teeth. Oh, cruel fate! The male actually loses ALL of his teeth and his snout gets shorter and shorter. Oh, cruel dentistry! And it's likely they die after mating just once. Oh, cruel semelparous reproduction!
The eggs float to the surface and hatch into long, transparent larvae. They're like the larvae of other eels but, predictably enough, longer. They spend several months near the surface before they descend into the twilight to metamorphose into adults.
Enjoy those teeth while you can!