Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Banded Snake Eel Myrichthys colubrinus
Cleverly disguised to look like the venomous yellow-lipped sea krait, the banded snake eel is avoided by most predators. This allows it to hunt safely over sand flats and seagrass beds near coral reefs for small fish and crustaceans. Most individuals of this species are banded with broad black and white bands, but in some areas these eels have dark blotches between the bands. This color variant may eventually be identified as a different species. The banded snake eel has a pointed head with a pair of large tubular nostrils on the upper jaw that point downwards. This arrangement gives the fish an excellent sense of smell that allows it to seek out prey hidden beneath the sand surface.
With no fins except for very small pectoral fins, the banded snake eel swims by undulating its long body. When not hunting, it buries itself in the sand using the hard, pointed tip of its tail to burrow in tail-first. These fish are most active by night. They tend to remain in their burrows during the day and so are not often seen by divers. The banded snake eel belongs to a large family (Ophichthidae) which includes around 250 snake and worm eels, most of which burrow into sand and mud. All the members of this family have flattened transparent, leaflike (leptocephalus) larvae.