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Basketwork Eels, Cut-throat Eels, Cutthroat Eels

Compiler and date details

22 June 2011 - Dianne J. Bray, John R. Paxton, Jennifer E. Gates & Douglass F. Hoese

John R. Paxton, Jennifer E. Gates, Dianne J. Bray & Douglass F. Hoese


The Synaphobranchidae, basketwork or cutthroat eels, are found throughout all the world's oceans (Nelson 2006), with 38 species in 11 genera Eschmeyer (2011). Nine species in five genera are recorded from Australian waters. In addition, an unidentified leptocephalus larvae of the subfamily Dysomatinae has been collected from off Lake Macquarie, NSW (32°59'S); the specimen is in the Australian Museum.

Basketwork or cutthroat eels are benthic fishes of the continental slope, with pelagic leptocephalus larvae. One species is known to feed on invertebrates and dead fishes. The osteology of Ilyophis has been described by Saldanha & Merrett (1987). Adults reach a maximum size of 1.2 m.

The synaphobranchids were studied by Castle (1964), who provided a key and a number of descriptions for species in the subfamily Synaphobranchinae. Robins & Robins (1976) and Sulak & Shcherbachev (1997) presented keys to the genera. Some workers (Castle 1984, 1991; Smith 1984) recognised separate families (Synaphobranchidae, Dysommatidae and Simenchelyidae) for the subfamilies. We follow the works of Smith (1999) and Nelson (2006) and recognise three subfamilies (Synaphobranchinae, Ilyophinae and Simenchelyinae) in the Synaphobranchidae. We follow Karmovskaya & Merrett (1998) in recognising Histiobranchus and Karmovskaya (2003) in recognising Diastabranchus as distinct from Synaphobranchus. Smith (1999) presented a key to some Australian species. Smith (2008) treated and provided a key to species found on the southern coast of Australia.


General References

Castle, P.H.J. 1964. Deep-sea eels: family Synaphobranchidae. Galathea Report 7: 29-42 figs 1-2

Castle, P.H.J. 1984. Notacanthiformes and Anguilliformes: development. 62-93 figs 29-43 in Moser, H.G. et al. (eds). Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Special Publication 1: 1-760

Castle, P.H.J. 1991. Synaphobranch eels from the Southern Ocean. Deep-Sea Research 15: 393-396

Eschmeyer, W.N. 2011. Catalog of Fishes. Online version updated 29 March 2011.

Karmovskaya, E.S. 2003. New records of synaphobranchid eels (Synaphobranchidae, Anguilliformes) collected off New Caledonia and adjacent regions, with description of a new species of Atractodenchelys. Voprosy Ikhtiologii 43(4): 437-446 [In Russian; English translation in J. Ichthyol. 43(7):491–500]

Karmovskaya, E.S. & Merrett, N.R. 1998. Taxonomy of the deep-sea eel genus Histiobranchus (Synaphobranchidae, Anguilliformes), with notes on the ecology of H. bathybius in the eastern North Atlantic. Journal of Fish Biology 53: 1015-1037

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 601 pp.

Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E., Bray, D.J. & Hoese, D.F. 2006. Family Synaphobranchidae. pp. 260-263 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. [260]

Robins, C.H. & Robins, C.R. 1976. New genera and species of Dysommine and Synaphorbranchine eels (Synaphobranchidae) with an analysis of the Dysomminae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 127(18): 249-280 figs 1-9

Robins, C.H. & Robins, C.R. 1989. Family Synaphobranchidae. pp. 207-253 in Böhlke, E.B. (ed.). Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Orders Anguilliformes and Saccopharyngiformes. New Haven : The Sears Foundation of Marine Research, Yale University Pt 9 Vol. 1 655 pp.

Saldanha, L. & Merrett, N.R. 1987. The osteology of Ilyophis blachei and its contribution to a diagnosis of the Synaphobranchidae (Pisces, Anguilliformes). Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology 91: 343-356

Smith, D.G. 1979. Guide to the leptocephali (Elopiformes, Anguilliformes, Notacanthiformes). National Marine Fisheries Service (U.S.). Circular 424: 1-39 figs 1-54

Smith, D.G. 1984. Elopiformes, Notacanthiformes and Anguilliformes: relationships. 94-102 figs 45-54 in Moser, H.G. et al. (eds). Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Special Publication 1: 1-760

Smith, D.G. 1999. Family Synaphobranchidae. pp. 1658-1661 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.

Smith, D.G. 2008. Family Synaphobranchidae. pp. 160-166 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Sulak, K.J. & Shcherbachev, Y.N. 1997. Zoogeography and systematics of six deep-living genera of synaphobranchid eels, with a key to taxa and description of two new species of Ilyophis. Bulletin of Marine Science 60(3): 1158-1194


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
24-Sep-2011 ANGUILLIFORMES 24-Sep-2011 MOVED Dr Dianne Bray
01-May-2014 23-Apr-2011 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)