Basketwork Eels, Cut-throat Eels, Cutthroat Eels
Compiler and date details
John R. Paxton, Jennifer E. Gates, Dianne J. Bray & Douglass F. Hoese
The Synaphobranchidae comprise 10 genera and about 32 species of basketwork or cutthroat eels, found throughout all the world's oceans (Nelson 2006). Eight 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. The works of Robins & Robins (1976, 1989), Smith (1979) and Nelson (1994) are followed here in recognising three subfamilies (Synaphobranchinae, Dysommatinae and Simenchelyinae) in the Synaphobranchidae. We follow Karmovskaya & Merret (1998) in recognising Histiobranchus and Karmovskaya (2003) in recognising Diastabranchus as distinct from Synaphobranchus. A key to some Australian species is presented in Smith (1999).
P.H.J. Castle, formerly of Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, provided much help with the preparation of this account.
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
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. 1994. Fishes of the World. New York : John Wiley & Sons 600 pp.
Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 601 pp.
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 1397-2068 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
Common Name References
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 1397-2068 pp.  (FAO) (Cutthroat Eels)
Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Morris, G.B. 1997. Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota (CAAB): an upgraded and expanded species coding system for Australian fisheries databases. CSIRO Marine Laboratories Report No. 224. 15 pp. + appendices (Basketwork Eels)