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Anguilla australis (Family Anguillidae)

Southern Shortfin Eel, Australian Shortfinned Eel, Freshwater Eel, River Eel, Shortfin Eel, Short-fin Eel, Shortfinned Eel, Short-finned Eel, Silver Eel, Yellow Eel



The Southern Shortfin Eel is widespread throughout coastal south-eastern Australian rivers, occurring from the Bundaberg region Qld, south and east to around the Glenelg River in western Victoria as well as throughout Tasmania (TAS, VIC, NSW, SA, QLD).


The Southern Shortfin Eel is an elongate fish with a long round body that commonly grows to 1000 mm. They are typically coloured brown. Anguillids can be distinguished from most other fishes by their eel like appearance and lack of pelvic fins. The Southern Shortfin Eel can be identified by their shorter dorsal fin, which is virtually the same length as their anal fin.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Southern Shortfin Eel is commonly found in most waterbodies from higher elevation headwater streams to lowland rivers and impoundments as well as isolated farm dams. They are highly migratory at certain life stages. Young eels (called elvers) swim long distances upstream and are able to climb wet surfaces such as smaller dam walls or slither across wet grass. Adults migrate several years later out to the Coral Sea to spawn. Females contain large numbers of eggs, between 0.5 and 3 million. The eggs and larvae are carried by ocean currents along the eastern Australian coast where they enter freshwater. The Southern Shortfin Eel is carnivorous and feeds on invertebrates and fishes mostly at night.

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Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species is commonly caught by anglers at night (usually much to their disgust). They are a popular eating fish among some people. They are not formally listed due to their widespread distribution and abundance.

Other Comments:

Anguilla australis was named by Richardson in 1841. The name is based on Latin, Anguilla meaning an eel and australis after Australia.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.

Merrick, J. R. & Schmida, G. E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffith Press Ltd. 409pp.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Neil Armstrong. 1 May 2002.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/gif 74852 bytes Anguilla australis
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 61529 bytes Distribution of Anguilla australis

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