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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spotted at Dillon Beach

What fun to receive an e-mail from Carl Vogler this morning about an unusual fish at Dillon Beach:

Tom Carter (of Corte Madera) discovered this fish washed up on the beach.  It was ~35 inches (89 cm) long.  Cameron Vogler took pictures for documentation.  Here are two more (below).  Note the large eye, and how the head makes up a relatively small portion of the overall length.

They identified this fish as a Pacific Snake Eel (Ophichthus triserialis), and that identification looks good to me, too.

Below is an illustration of a Pacific Snake Eel showing the spots that help identify this species.

From McCosker, J.E. and R.H. Rosenblatt. 1998.  A revision of the Pacific snake-eel genus Ophichthus (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) with the description of six new species.  Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 50: 397-432.

Pacific Snake Eels are distributed from the Klamath River in northern California to Peru, but they're apparently rare north of Baja California.  

I searched the California Academy of Sciences online ichthyology collection and noted only three Pacific Snake Eel specimens from north of San Francisco: Black Point, San Francisco (1931); Tiburon, near Richardson Bay (1933); and one off Bodega Bay? (1977).

Thanks to the Voglers and Tom Carter, we all get to learn about a very intriguing fish, in a part of their range where they're rarely observed.

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