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WOW! Photo, February 2004


Tiger snake eel, (Scuticaria tigrina)
Photo by Kobus Landsberg.
Kobus describes his encounter:
" I was diving at Aliwal Shoal on the 2nd of January 2004, in a fairly strong North-South current. I found the eel at 15m. The water temp 23 Degrees C. It was swimming in the open and was not afraid of us at all ".

Underwater photographer, Kobus Landsberg, recently photographed this tiger snake moray, Scuticaria tigrina, at Aliwal Shoal. This is a new distribution record, it was previously known south to Sodwana. Scuticaria tigrina is widely distributed from the islands of the eastern Pacific to Africa. It has been reported in the Western Indian Ocean from South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Oman and Mauritius. The tiger snake moray is an uncommon species that is rarely seen.

Snake morays of the genus Scuticaria have a short rudimentary tail restricted to the tail tip. The upper and lower jaws are approximately equal, with the eye about midway between the snout tip and the corner of the mouth (rictus). If the anus was visible it would be found well past the mid-length of the body. Scuticaria have small, sharp teeth. The eel most likely to be confused with the tiger snake moray is the large-spotted snake moray, Uropterygius polyspilus, which has a strikingly similar colour pattern. The two are readily distinguished with specimens in hand by the anus of S. tigrinus being more than two-thirds the total length from the snout and by having the inner row of teeth extending only about halfway back in the jaw. U. polyspilus has its anus about mid total length and has larger and fewer teeth, with the inner row reaching nearly as far back as the outer row. If only the head is visible the eye of the tiger snake moray is over or in front of the length of the mouth; the large-spotted snake moray has an eye over the rear half of the mouth length. Tiger snake morays are pale cream to yellowish brown with large, irregular, well spaced, dark brown spots; the snout and jaws have small dark spots. They are reported to attain 140 cm. Many thanks Kobus, for sharing your WOW! PHOTO.

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All text, images and photographs copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity or the respective photographer. All Rights Reserved.
Last update: November 7, 2006