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Author: (Linnaeus, 1758)

Ophisurus serpens (Linnaeus, 1758)

Diagnosis: body very elongate, snake-like, cylindrical; anus in anterior half. Snout long, tapered and acute. Anterior nostril a small collared slit at midsnout; posterior nostril a long slit covered by a flap, on outer lip at midway between anterior nostril and anterior edge of eye. Jaws elongate, slender, incapable of closing completely in adult, lower jaw included. Teeth caniniform, acute, more or less curved, enlarged on premaxillae and forming a horseshoe; small and uni- to triserial on maxillae, the external row the largest; uniserial on lower jaw; vomerine teeth uniserial, enlarged anteriorly. Dorsal and anal fins well developed; dorsal fin origin slightly behind tips of pectoral fins; pectoral fins well developed with 14-16 rays; caudal fin absent, caudal tip hardened. Lateral line with 70-77 preanal pores, 7-10 prepectoral; 2 supra- temporal pores. Vertebrae: total 199-215; abdominal 80-90. Colour: reddish-brown dorsally, yellowish-white ventrally; snout light ochre; dorsal and anal fins edged with grey; lateral pores blackish. Size: to 2.40 m.

Habitat: benthic on the shelf, burrowing in sand or mud, or on upper slope to 300 m. Food: carnivorous. Reproduction: in warm hydrological season (June-September in Mediterranean); eggs 3-3.9 mm diameter; leptocephali described in Mediterranean (Grassi, 1913) and in Gulf of Guinea (Blache, 1972).

Distribution: Mediterranean (except eastern part) and eastern Atlantic northward to northern coast of Iberian peninsula, also Madeira. Elsewhere, southward to South Africa, also western Pacific and southern Indian Ocean. Probably cosmopolitan.

Eggs, larvae and young stages. Kaup, 1860: 270, pl. 3 (fig. A) (Leptocephalus kefersteinipro parte) | Facciolà, 1893c: 58 | Grassi, 1896: 372 | Grassi &Calandruccio, 1896b: 349 | Facciolà, 1897b: 122 | Grassi, 1897a: 261 | Schmidt, 1912b: pl. 4; 1913: 9, fig. 5 | Grassi, 1913: 110, 196, pl. 6 (fig. 1-12), pl. 12 (fig. 34); 1915: 706 | Bertin, 1926: tab. 6 | Fish, 1927: 307 | Ancona, 1930: pl. 131 (fig. 2); 1931: 128, fig. 110-119 | Bertin, 1936b: 8 | Sparta, 1939c: 5, 11, fig. 6-8 | Castle, 1969: 22, 44 | Blache, 1977: 257 (leptocephali).
Otoliths (sagitta). Sanz Echeverría, 1928: 165.

Longjaw snake eel (Ophisurus serpens)