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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 30, 2021

Blind Cave Eel Facts You’ll Never Forget

Discover amazing blind cave eel facts.

This article is about a bizarre, rare, and enigmatic species native to western Australia that most people haven't even heard of. Researchers at the Western Australian Museum are still researching, exploring, and answering questions about this mysterious creature, so let's learn of what little is known about this species.

The blind cave eel is a species belonging to the Synbranchidae family. It is endemic to subterranean waters in the coastal regions of Western Australia besides them, the only other vertebrates and cavefish restricted to subterranean waters of Western Australia is Milyeringa. Just like their name suggests, these creatures are entirely blind and have no coloration or pigmentation. The species was first introduced and described as Ophisternon candidum by Gerlof Fokko Mees, a Dutch ichthyologist, ornithologist and museum curator in 1992. This eel continues to be one of Australia’s and the world's rarest, strangest, and most bizarre animals. The blind cave eel, (Ophisternon candidum, Mees 1992), has no eyes, lacks scales and fins, and appears uniform brown-pink due to its nerves visible through its skin.

In Australia, there are only three known vertebrates who live entirely in underground waters found in caves and wells, including this species thatwas first sighted in the cave system of Cape Range Peninsula near Exmouth in 1959. It has been rarely seen since then. Next recordings were reported from the Bungaroo Creek, near Pannawonica, and the Barrow Island 37 mi (60 km) away from the Pilbara coast. To this day, these creatures remain as one of Australia’s least-known fishes. It is the longest cavefish in the world, growing up to 16 in (40cm) in length. These creatures are not true eels at all as the populations have genetic differences, but they do belong to a smaller family of mainly freshwater fishes that all have long, slender eel-like bodies. What kind of environment do they inhabit? Is there a blind cave eel with legs? Can you keep a blind cave eel pet? Read on to find answers to these questions!

Learn about some other fish from our electric eel facts and conger eel facts pages.

Blind Cave Eel Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a blind cave eel?

The blind cave eel (Ophisternon candidum, Mees 1992) is a fish and worm-like creature that has not been identified as a specific animal just yet, but it belongs to the Animalia kingdom.

What class of animal does a blind cave eel belong to?

The blind cave eel (Ophisternon candidum) in the family Synbranchidae belongs to the Actinopterygii class.

How many blind cave eels are there in the world?

The accurate population size of this freshwater species is unknown. Since they are rare and endemic to Australia, their population size is limited.

Where does a blind cave eel live?

These creatures currently are found only in north-western Australia. The curator of fishes at the Western Australian Museum stated that for 60 years this species was only known to exist in one location the Cape Range in Peninsula. They have since been discovered in several other locations nearby.

What is a blind cave eel's habitat?

This creature lives in the subterranean caves found in Western Australia. These caves have some rare habitat conditions and the environment is unlike any other habitat of an animal. Since the caves lead to open ocean, they are often filled with salty water from the sea that arranges itself into layers, and this salty brackish water underlies the freshwater at the top. These worm-like beings inhabit the thin layer of freshwater formed that exists in the coastal regions of the cave system.

Who do blind cave eels live with?

These creatures are solitary and live alone and are rarely spotted in pairs, and never in groups.

How long does a blind cave eel live?

The life span of this species is unknown.

How do they reproduce?

The blind cave eel (Ophisternon candidum) in the family Synbranchidae reproduces via sexual reproduction and follows the gametic life cycle. It was classified as a member of the Animalia kingdom. The process of reproduction among these creatures is standard or similar to other animals that follow the gametic life cycle. The creatures begin their journey as newly formed gametes called haploid, which is the result of the male and female species undergoing gametic meiosis. Females lay their eggs inside shallow water pockets, followed by males releasing their semen.

They follow the conventional life cycle like every other animal. These eels migrate to their spawning or breeding grounds a short while before the season begins. This seems perfectly common as most animals migrate temporarily for the same, but migration among eels is a necessary step for immature larvae to reach sexual maturity. If they don't migrate, these creatures do not reach sexual maturity. Their clutch size is unknown but they produce only a handful of eggs in their lifetime.

What is their conservation status?

It is listed as Vulnerable under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The IUNC Red List of Threatened Species has classified them as an Endangered species. The populations are highly affected by any changes made in their environment-restricted habitat such as rising sea levels.

Blind Cave Eel Fun Facts

What do blind cave eels look like?

The blind cave eel is a unique animal that is recognized not by its morphological or physical features but by the number of features absent. These creatures lack the most simple and basic features that are present among every living organism. They have no eyes, ears, scales, or limbs. Even though they are often referred to as animals or fishes, they look nothing like either of them. They have long elongated, worm-like bodies that carry the primary function of digging burrows into the soil, soft sediments in the walls of the caves, wells, and sinkholes. Burrowing also serves as a method for foraging and searching for food.

Here are some fun facts about the blind cave eel.
* Please note that this image is of a moray eel. If you have an image of a blind cave eel, please let us know at [email protected]

How cute are they?

These creatures are not cute at all. They look quite scary as they lack the most common and basic morphological features.

How do they communicate?

Very little is known about how they communicate since they lack basic features like eyes and limbs. However, they use their nerves and pores present on the skin to be aware of their surroundings, prey movement, and an approaching predator.

How big is a blind cave eel?

It is the longest known cavefish as it reaches a length of 16 in (40 cm). A common garter snake is nearly one and a half times bigger than a blind cave eel.

How fast can a blind cave eel swim?

The speed rate of this eel-like species is unknown, but they slither into their burrows and move on the surface just like snakes and worms.

How much does a blind cave eel weigh?

Researches at the Western Australian Museum have not finished researching this species, so data about their weight is unavailable.

What are the male and female names of the species?

This species does not have sex-specific names for its members and are simply called males and females.

What would you call a baby blind cave eel?

A baby blind cave eel is called a larva.

What do they eat?

Due to their habitat, little is known about the biology of this species. They feed opportunistically upon small invertebrates and insects found in freshwater bodies such as crustaceans, shrimp, larvae, woodlice, and other aquatic and terrestrial species that have fallen into the water.

Snakes often wander off into their habitats to prey on these eels.

Are they aggressive?

Details about their behavior are unknown, but due to their size and delicate body, this species tends to be more shy and easy to scare rather than aggressive.

Would they make a good pet?

No! Since the species is Endangered we do not recommend them as pets.

Did you know...

Scientists and researchers from the Western Australian Museum have identified two new populations of the blind cave eel. They were found in two new locations near the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.

How did the blind cave eel get its name?

The species got its name due to the lack of morphological features, including eyes!

How has the blind cave eel adapted?

The blind cave eel posseses several blood vessels and nerves close to its skin and tiny pores. These act as sensory organs to help navigate and understand its surroundings to avoid bumping into cave walls and detect any movement made by its prey or predators.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our Mekong giant catfish facts or smalltooth saw fish facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in our free printable blind cave eel coloring pages.

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