Sharpnose Snake Eel, Apterichtus flavicaudus (Snyder 1904)

Other Names: Orange Snake Eel, Sharpnose Sand Eel, Yellowtail Snake Eel

A Sharpnose Snake Eel, Apterichtus flavicaudus, on the Izu Peninsula, Japan. Source: Izuzuki / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A pinkish to pale orange or pale tan snake eel fading to lemon yellow posteriorly, covered in minute darker spots, with two pale blotches behind the eye, and a pale slash behind the corner of the jaw.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Apterichtus flavicaudus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

Sharpnose Snake Eel, Apterichtus flavicaudus (Snyder 1904)

More Info


NW of Shark Bay, Western Australia, and Port Stephens to Botany Bay, New South Wales; also the Lord Howe Province 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 to 293 m. Reportedly nocturnal.


Vertebrae 154-166.
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.


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 (Hibino 2015; McCosker & Hibino 2015).


The specific name flavicaudus is from the Latin flavus (yellow) and caudus (= tail), in reference to the lemon yellow colour on the rear 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. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

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.

Hatooka, K. 1995. First record of an ophichthid eel Apterichtus flavicaudus (Snyder) from Izu Oceanic Park. I. O. P. Diving News 6: 2-4.

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,

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.  

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. 2006. Additions to the New Zealand marine eel fauna with the description of a new moray, Anarchias supremus (Teleostei: Muraenidae), and comments on the identity of Gymnothorax griffini Whitley & Phillips. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 36(2): 83-95,

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 See ref at BHL

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37068050

Behaviour:Burrowing, nocturnal

Depth:7-293 m

Habitat:Sand, rock, coral bottoms

Max Size:58 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map