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Rare sighting of Pacific snake-eel near Sunset Beach, Oregon

The snake-eel was lethargically wiggling in the wet sand before being brought to the Seaside Aquarium.
Credit: Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium
Pacific snake-eel found near Sunset Beach, Ore. on Sunday, March 29, 2020.

SUNSET BEACH, Ore. — When Jerry Olson was walking near Sunset Beach on Sunday, he saw what appeared to be a sea snake wiggling in the wet sand. He called the Seaside Aquarium, which is currently closed but still has staff on hand to care for the animals, and they told him what he found was most likely a Pacific snake-eel, also known as the Ophichthus triserialis.  

The Pacific snake-eel was too lethargic to simply place back into the ocean, so it was taken to the Seaside Aquarium and placed in an isolated tank. Over the next few days, staff will warm the water to try to make the snake-eel more comfortable.

Pacific snake-eels are typically found in northern California down to Peru, and are rarely seen this far north, but last year on March 14 a Pacific snake-eel was found on the Long Beach Peninsula, just north of Astoria. It was the first time that this species of eel had been found on the beach that far north. This marks the third time a Pacific snake-eel has been found on a beach in Oregon. The two previous findings were in Bandon and Lincoln City.

According to Wikipedia, the species epithet "triserialis" means "three-rowed" in Latin, and refers to the eel's spotted pattern. The Pacific snake-eel's diet consists of bony fish, shrimp and bivalves. It is frequently captured as a by-catch by shrimp trawlers but is usually discarded

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