JAN 17, 2023 11:45 AM PST

Eel or Eek!? The Sea Creature Taking Over your Feed Today

Yesterday a story started to pop up everywhere about a terrifying beach discovery. A woman walking along Crystal Beach in Texas came across a startling sight – an unusual creature with a large mouth, sharp teeth, and a long snake-like body. She snapped a picture and the image started to go viral with viewers referencing everything from the sandworms of Beetlejuice to Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Far from anything alien, the unsettling sea creature was confirmed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Science Director, Dr. Mark Fisher, to be an eel, a snapper eel to be exact. He noted they are “somewhat common” in Galveston Bay but said humans don’t normally see them since the creatures are usually burrowed.

(Above image: Echiophis punctifer, AKA the snapper eel. Image credit D Ross Robertson, Public Domain via)

Snapper eels, AKA Echiophis punctifer (also called spoon-nosed eels), are marine mammals found predominantly in the waters from the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. They live at depths ranging from close to the surface of the water to about 100 meters (328 feet) deep and can grow up to be 180 cm (70 in) in length. They prefer habitats known as soft bottom, which are comprised of sand, gravel, mud, pebbles, and mixtures of them all. Like most eels, snapper eels have a diverse menu, which includes crayfish, squid, crickets, mosquitoes, and even other eels, just to name a few.

So, if they’re so common why don’t we see them more often? Well, that’s a fun one to answer: because they burrow into the sand. In this video, at about the 3:10 mark, you can see a spotted spoon-nosed eel (the same type found on the beach in Texas) emerge from the depths.

Long story short, don’t be too freaked out! These are common and totally normal sea animals just living their best lives.

Sources:  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Conserve, AZ Animals, San Antonio Express News, KHOU11

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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