Ocellated snake-eels are easily identified by their elongated bodies, olive-cream coloured skin and large brown spots. The end of their tails are hard and pointy, helping to distinguish them from the similarly coloured moray eels.

These eels can change their spots. Juveniles, under 25cm, only have one row of spots along their backs. Individuals between 30 and 50cm have a second row of spots along their sides, alternating with the ones on their backs. Mature snake-eels, over 50cm, develop multiple rows of spots on their sides, and additional rows of spots along the undersides of their bodies.

These snake-eels inhabit sandy coral reefs and lagoons along South Africa’s east coast, and typically bury themselves near these reefs. They emerge at night to hunt small fish and crustaceans.

Species Facts

  • Grows up to 1 metre long.
  • It is often mistaken for a venomous sea snake, but it lacks the scales and flattened tail typical of sea snakes.