General Description

Adults and young eels (elvers) are olive-green becoming greyish-white to silvery below, sometimes with darker pectoral fins. The larvae (leptocephali) are mostly transparent. Body large, almost cylindrical, with united dorsal, caudal and anal fins. Head broad with large mouth that does not extend beyond the eye. Dorsal fin commences above or just in front of the level of the anal fin. Body up to 110 cm.


The Southern Shortfin Eel spends up to 20 years in freshwater before migrating downstream to the sea to spawn in the Coral Sea. The transparent leaf-like larvae (leptocephali), are carried southwards on the East Australia Current and change into tiny eels called elvers before migrating back upstream. This species is a nocturnal predator that usually preys on fishes, crustaceans, molluscs and insects. A small but important commercial fishery exists for the Southern Shortfin Eel in south-eastern Australia. Most of the catch is exported overseas, either frozen or smoked.


Southwest Pacific, including islands in the Tasman Sea, New Caledonia and New Zealand. Eastern and southern Australia from southern Queensland to the Murray River, South Australia, including Tasmania.


Slow-flowing areas in streams, lowland rivers, lakes and swamps.

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