Creature Feature – Sharptail Eel


Sharptail Eel

Sharptail Eel

The sharptail eel is also known as Snake Eels and Sharptail Snake Eel.  When I saw one for the first time scuba diving, I thought it was a sea snake.  Since then I have found out there are no sea snakes found in Florida.

Look at the detail on this guy above!  The gills are gorgeous and it appears to have yellow spots closer to head that fade to white down the body towards the tail.  This one also looked like it had little whiskers by it’s snout, that I would have to guess are some sort of feelers.  I spotted the one featured in these pics off Datura Ave, Lauderdale by the Sea on a shore dive.  This was one of three types Florida eels I saw this day.  The other two being a moray and a goldentail. Time of day for these photo ops was around 9-10am in April.

Sharptail Eel

Sharptail Eel

Sharptail eels are loners, generally found by themselves in small seagrass flats and coral rubble reefs that have a lot of rocks.  They are nocturnal feeders that generally hide during the day but occasionally feed during the day.

Sharptail Eel

Sharptail Eel

Snake Eels resemble snakes or worms because they have virtually no fins.   Although it is a night feeder that feeds on crabs and small fish, it is often seen by day winding graceful along shallow sandy or grassy bottoms, and even through reefs and rocky areas. It uses its pointed tail to burrow tail first into the mucky bottom sediments, where it can move about easily. It also uses it’s pointed snout to burrow in.  This creature is not shy, and can be easily approached.  This type of eel, I see often winding it’s way along the rocks at all times of the day.  Their pointed snouts and tails allow them to burrow deep beneath the sand.
They can usually be found with just their head showing above the sand waiting for their prey, a few species prowl around the sands at night. Some mimic banded sea snakes and can be found in the open during the day. Their  body and head are dark olive to gray to purplish-brown with a light underside. The body is covered with pale greenish circular spots, often with yellow centers, while the smaller spots on its head are bright yellow. It is not to be confused with goldspotted eel which has bright yellow body spots ringed with dark brown. The teeth are blunt, front nostrils are tubular, dorsal fin is dusky, and pectoral fins are small. It grows to a length of 3.5 feet.  I would have to say this guy was approx 2 feet in length.

Sharptail Eel

Sharptail Eel

The sharptailed eel is found all throughout Florida shores, into the Bahamas and Bermuda.  It is apparently less common in the Antilles and Bahamas.  I have seen this creature many times in Vero beach and also Lauderdale by the Sea in shore dives.

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About daniellesdives

diving enthusiast
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One Response to Creature Feature – Sharptail Eel

  1. wasif says:

    Thanks, good info. There isn’t even a wiki article about this! I was just snorkeling in Aruba and found one during the day – thought it was a sea snake. It was in a ‘hunting party’ with reef fish. Strangest thing i ever saw, it was burrowed in under a rock and a group of other fish were helping it. I have interesting footage of it.

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