Animal Species:Snubnose Eel, Simenchelys parasitica Gill, 1879

In 1992 two Snubnose Eels were found inside the heart of a Shortfin Mako, where they were believed to have fed on the blood of the host. The species can be recognised by its snub-nosed appearance, small mouth and embedded scales.

Head of a Snubnose Eel

Head of a Snubnose Eel
Photographer: Kerry Parkinson © NORFANZ Founding Parties

Standard Common Name

Snubnose Eel


The Snubnose Eel has a moderately elongate body with well developed fins. It can be recognised by its snub-nosed appearance, small mouth and embedded scales. It is grey to grey-brown with darker fin margins.

Simenchelys parasitica is the only member of the subfamily Simenchelyinae.

Size range

The species grows to 61cm in length.


The Snubnose Eel occurs in temperate marine waters of the Atlantic and Indo-West and Central Pacific. In Australia it is known from off northern Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Great Australian Bight off Western Australia.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Simenchelys parasitica

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Snubnose Eel specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


It inhabits continental slope and upper abyssal waters at depths from 136 m to 2620 m.

Feeding and Diet

It feeds on epibenthic crustaceans and fishes, and is reported to be a fish parasite.



What does this mean?


  1. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  2. Karmovskaya, E.S. 1978. Preliminary list of eels (Anguilliformes, Osteichthys) of the Australian-New Zealand region (on materials collected during the 16th cruise of the R/V Dimitry Mendeleev). Trudy Inst. Okeanol. Akad. Nauk S.S.S.R. 112: 147-151 (in Russian).
  3. Smith, D. G. 1999. Synaphobranchidae. in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (Eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. Pp. iii-vi, 1398-2068.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Snubnose Eel, Simenchelys parasitica, Synaphobranchidae, eel, long and skinny, 30 cm - 1 m, continental slope, marine, temperate water, small mouth, embedded scales, grey, grey-brown,


Mark McGrouther - 8.09 AM, 27 September 2010

Hi Kokosnood,  To be honest, I don't know how the Snubnose Eel could enter the heart of a host.  As I prepared the page, I wondered the same thing myself.  It would be fascinating to know the path by which the eel enters the host but also at what size (eel and host) is this possible.  Likewise at what size (of the eel) does it become impossible to enter, or fatal to reside in the heart of the host.  Once inside the host is the eel's size limited by the size of the host?  I have no idea how this could be feasibly and ethically investigated.  It is presumed that the eel consumes the blood of the host but entering the heart is a pretty 'serious' way to go about it.  The Candiru's method of feeding in the gills of the host seems a far 'easier' (both physically and in evolutionary terms) way to secure a meal.

kokosnood - 2.09 PM, 26 September 2010
Thanks for updating this page! I am curious how this fish can get inside the heart of a shark? And I am also surprised that it isn't fatal for the host. How would the way of life for this eel compare to that of the Amazonian Candiru Catfish (Candiru asu)?

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