Gaper Snake Eel, Neenchelys cheni (Chen and Weng 1967)

Other Names: Chen's worm eel

Gaper Snake Eel, Neenchelys cheni, NMMB-P12505, 350 mm TL, Danang, Vietnam, with arrows indicating the origin of the dorsal and anal fins. Source: Hsuan-Ching Ho, John E McCosker & David G Smith. 2013. Zoological Studies 2013, 52:58. License: CC by Attribution


A rare snake eel with the dorsal-fin origin relatively posterior, above or slightly behind the anal-fin origin; a moderately elongate, relatively compressed body; pectoral fin of moderate size, shorter than snout length; snout relatively long; single median temporal and interorbital pores.

Although specimens collected in Australia were taken in bottom trawls, most specimens in Taiwan have been collected by midwater trawl together with many mesopelagic fishes, suggesting that adults have a pelagic lifestyle. Most snake-eels usually live in burrows.

The Gaper Snake Eel was previously called Neenchelys retropinna in Australia.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Neenchelys cheni in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 Mar 2023,

Gaper Snake Eel, Neenchelys cheni (Chen and Weng 1967)

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Recorded in Australia from the Bonaparte Archipelago, north Western Australia, to the Arafura Sea, Northern Territory. Found elsewhere in the tropical Indo-west Pacific - southern Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Oman.


In preservative: pale brown, slightly darker above, fins pale, dorsal and anal fins darker around tail tip.


Until the revision of the genus Neenchelys by Ho et al. (2013), this species was called Neenchelys retropinna in Australia, a junior synonym of N. cheni.

Species Citation

Myrophis cheni Chen & Weng, 1967, Biol. Bull. Tunghai Univ. (Ichthyol.) 6 32: 39, Fig. 29. Type locality: Tungkang, Taiwan.


Dianne J. Bray

Gaper Snake Eel, Neenchelys cheni (Chen and Weng 1967)


Chen, J.T.F. & Weng, H.T.C. 1967. A review of the Apodal fishes of Taiwan. Biological Bulletin. Tunghai University (Ichthyology) 6 32: 1-86.

Hibino, Y., Satapoomin, U. & Kimura, S. 2015. A new species of Neenchelys (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae: Myrophinae) from the eastern Indian Ocean. Zootaxa 4060 (1): 056–061 Open access

Ho, H.-C. & Shao, K.-T. 2011. Annotated checklist and type catalog of fish genera and species described from Taiwan. Zootaxa 2957: 1-74. PDF online

Ho, H-C., McCosker, J.E. & Smith, D.G. 2013. Revision of the worm eel genus Neenchelys (Ophichthidae: Myrophinae), with descriptions of three new species from the western Pacific Ocean. Zoological Studies 52: 58-78. PDF online (names invalid - see Tashiro et al. 2015 and Ho et al. 2015) 

Ho, H.-C., McCosker, J.E. & Smith, D.G. 2015. Renaming of three recently described eels of the genus Neenchelys (Teleostei: Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) from the western Pacific. Zootaxa 4060 (1): 49–51. PDF Open access

 Ho, H-C., Smith, D.G., Wang, S-I., Shao, K-T., Ju Y-M., Chang, C-W. 2010. Specimen catalog of Pisces collection of National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium transferred from Tinghi University and Aquarium. (II) Order Anguilliformes. Platax 7: 13-34.  

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293. (as Neenchelys retropinna)  

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., Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Gates, J.E. & Bray, D.J. 2006. Ophichthidae. pp. 264-277 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. (as Neenchelys retropinna)  

McCosker, J.E. & Chen, Y.-Y. 2000. A new species of deepwater snake-eel, Ophichthus aphotistos, with comments on Neenchelys retropinna (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) from Taiwan. Ichthyological Research 47(4): 353-357.  

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp.  (as Neenchelys retropinna)  

Smith, D.G. & Böhlke, J.E. 1983. Neenchelys retropinna a new worm eel (Pisces : Ophichthidae) from the Indian Ocean. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 135: 80-84 figs 1-3

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.  

Tashiro, F., Hibino, Y. & Imamura, H. 2015. Description of a new species of the genus Neenchelys (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae, Myrophinae) from the eastern Indian Ocean, with comments on the availability of three congeners. Ichthyological Research 63(1): 53–58. DOI: 10.1007/s10228-015-0473-8 Open access

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37068027

Depth:50-200 m

Habitat:Benthic, soft bottom - or mesopelagic

Max Size:35 cm TL

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