Slender Worm-eel, Scolecenchelys gymnota (Bleeker 1857)

Other Names: Indo-Pacific Slender Worm-eel, Slender Worm Eel

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Scolecenchelys gymnota in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Slender Worm-eel, Scolecenchelys gymnota (Bleeker 1857)

More Info


North West Cape, Western Australia, and Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, around the tropical north to the Capricorn Group, Great Barrier Reef, southern Queensland. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the Indo-Pacific: Red Sea, South Africa to Fiji, north to central Honshu Island, Japan, south to Australia. Inhabits sandy and gravelly areas in tide pools and on coral reefs to depths of 60 m.


Vertebrae 118-135, predorsal 51-57, preanal 47-52. Distinguished by the following set of characters: 2 infraorbital pores found at the postorbital area; snout acute with no median ventral groove; rictus of mouth slightly posterior to a vertical line through the posterior margin of the eye; pointed conical teethon upper jaw and vomer, arranged biserially on upper jaw, uniserially on vomer; dorsal-fin origin posterior to a vertical line through the anus, horizontal distance between the origin and the vertical line 13-55% HL; tail 54-58% TL.


Colour brownish, darker along the back with many blackish spots, thorax brownish,fins unpigmented.


Feeds on small fishes and crustaceans.

Similar Species

Scolecenchelys iredalei differs distinctly from S. australis in having fewer vertebrae [preanal vertebrae 53–56 vs. 60–63; total 122–129 vs. 145–156], fewer postorbital pores (two vs. three), and a shorter tail (51–54 % TL vs. 55–58 %).

Species Citation

Muraenichthys gymnotus Bleeker 1857, Acta Soc. Scient. Indo-Neerlandicae 2: 90. Type locality: Ambon Bay, Ambon Island, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Slender Worm-eel, Scolecenchelys gymnota (Bleeker 1857)


Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

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

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

Bleeker, P. 1857. Achtste bijdrage tot de kennis der vischfauna van Amboina. Acta Societatis Scientiarum Indo-Neerlandicae 2: 1-102.

Castle, P.J. & McCosker, J.E. 1999. A new genus and two new species of Myrophine worm-eels, with comments on Muraenichthys and Scolecenchelys (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae). Records of the Australian Museum 51(2, 3): 113-122. PDF Open access

Hibino, Y., & Kimura, S. 2016. Revision of the Scolecenchelys gymnota species group with descriptions of two new species (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae: Myrophinae). Ichthyological Research 63: 1–22. DOI: 10.1007/s10228-015-0485-4

Hibino, Y., Kimura, S., Hoshino, K., Hatooka, K. & McCosker, J.E. 2012. Validity of Scolecenchelys aoki, with a redescription of Scolecenchelys gymnota (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae). Ichthyological Research 59: 179-188.

Hutchins, J.B. 2003. Checklist of marine fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. pp. 453-478 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I., & Jones, D.S. (eds). Proceedings of the Eleventh International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum.

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.

McCosker, J.E. 1970. A review of the eel genera Leptenchelys and Muraenichthys, with the description of a new genus, Schismorhynchus, and a new species, Muraenichthys chilensis. Pacific Science 24(4): 506-516 figs 1-6

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. & Castle, P.H.J. 1986. Family No. 42: Ophichthidae. pp. 176-186 in Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds). Smith's Sea Fishes. Johannesburg : Macmillan South Africa xx + 1047 pp. 144 pls.

Moore, G.I., Morrison, S.M., Hutchins, B.J., Allen, G.R. & Sampey, A. 2014. Kimberley marine biota. Historical data: fishes. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 84: 161-206

Schultz, L.P. 1943. Fishes of the Phoenix and Samoan Islands collected in 1939 during the expedition of the U.S.S. Bushnell. Bulletin of the United States National Museum. i–x, 1-316, 27 figs, 9 pls.

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.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37068003

Depth:0-60 m

Habitat:Reef associated, soft bottoms

Max Size:38 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map