Sharpnose Snake Eel, Apterichtus flavicaudus (Snyder 1904)

Other Names: Sharpnose Sand Eel
A pinkish to pale orange snake eel fading to lemon yellow posteriorly, with an indistinct, pale mid-dorsal stripe running from the back of the head to the tail tip, a purple tinge on the underside behind the anus, two white spots on the side of the head, the anterior one just behind eyes, the posterior one indistinctly connected over the top of the head.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Apterichtus flavicaudus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Aug 2020,

Sharpnose Snake Eel, Apterichtus flavicaudus (Snyder 1904)

More Info


Port Stephens to Botany Bay, New South Wales, also Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in Hawaii, Midway Island, northern New Zealand, and possibly the Seychelles.
Inhabits sand areas associated with rocky and coral reefs at depths of 7-293 m.


Fins absent. Body very elongate; tail 2.1–2.2, head 17–21, body depth 43–66 in total length; 3 preopercular pores and 3 pores in supratemporal canal; teeth conical, uniserial on jaws and vomer; 1–2 vomerine teeth; body coloration light tan with numerous minute brown to dark brown spots on head, body and tail, with a faint white slash angling behind eye to behind jaw corner; and MVF 77–158, total vertebrae 154–166 (n= 20).


An elongate species with: tail 1.8–2.2, head 18–20, and body depth 67–83 in total length; snout sharply pointed in lateral view; 3 preopercular pores and 3 pores in supratemporal canal; teeth conical, uniserial on jaws and vomer; 5–10 vomerine teeth; body mostly pale in preservative, creamy dorsally and reddish-brown ventrally with light and dark head markings in life; and MVF 82–164, total vertebrae 162–167 (n= 14)


This species is easily confused with the very similar Apterichtus australis (see McCosker & Hibino 2015).


The specific name flavicaudus is from the Latin flavus, meaning 'yellow', and caudus, meaning 'tail', in reference to the lemon yellow colour on the posterior half of the body.

Species Citation

Sphagebranchus flavicaudus Snyder 1904, Bull. U. S. Fish Comm. 22: 516, pl.2 (fig.4). Type locality: Auau Channel, between Mauai Island and Lanai Island, Hawaiian Islands, 21-28 fathoms. 


Bray, D.J. 2019


Australian Faunal Directory

Sharpnose Snake Eel, Apterichtus flavicaudus (Snyder 1904)


Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. 

Francis, M. 2019. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk and Kermadec islands. figshare. Dataset., open access

McCosker, J.E. 1977. The osteology, classification, and relationships of the eel family Ophichthidae. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 41(1): 1-123 figs 1-45 

McCosker, J.E.  & Hibino, Y.  2015. A review of the finless snake eels of the genus Apterichtus (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae), with the description of five new species. Zootaxa 3941(1): 49-78. (as Apterichtus flavicaudus

McCosker, J.E. & Randall, J.E. 2005. Notes on the snake eels of the genera Apterichtus and Ichthyapus (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) of the Central and South Pacific, with the description of a new species. Zootaxa 800: 1-11 

McCosker, J.E. & Stewart, A.L. 2015. 40. Family Ophichthidae. pp. 249-258 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 2 pp. 1-576. 

Smith, D.G. & McCosker, J.E. 1999. Family Ophichthidae. pp. 1662-1699 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068. 

Snyder, J.O. 1904. A catalogue of the shore fishes collected by the steamer Albatross about the Hawaiian Islands in 1902. Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 22: 513-538 figs 1-13

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37068050


Depth:7-293 m

Habitat:Sand, rock, coral bottoms

Max Size:58 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map