Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 793–802 | Cite as

Anguilliform fishes and sea kraits: neglected predators in coral-reef ecosystems

  • I. Ineich
  • X. BonnetEmail author
  • F. Brischoux
  • M. Kulbicki
  • B. Séret
  • R. Shine
Research Article


Despite intensive sampling efforts in coral reefs, densities and species richness of anguilliform fishes (eels) are difficult to quantify because these fishes evade classical sampling methods such as underwater visual census and rotenone poisoning. An alternative method revealed that in New Caledonia, eels are far more abundant and diverse than previously suspected. We analysed the stomach contents of two species of sea snakes that feed on eels (Laticauda laticaudata and L. saintgironsi). This technique is feasible because the snakes return to land to digest their prey, and (since they swallow their prey whole) undigested food items are identifiable. The snakes’ diet consisted almost entirely (99.6%) of eels and included 14 species previously unrecorded from the area. Very large populations of snakes occur in the study area (e.g. at least 1,500 individuals on a small coral islet). The snakes capture approximately 36,000 eels (972 kg) per year, suggesting that eels and snakes play key roles in the functioning of this reef ecosystem.


Rotenone Prey Item Reef Flat Underwater Visual Census Prey Mass 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We warmly thank the Aquarium de Nouméa, the Direction des Ressources Naturelles de la Province Sud and the IRD de Nouméa for logistical support. We are especially grateful to F. DeRiberolles, F. Devinck, C. Goiran, J. Halatas, P. Leblanc and Sylvain. Rex Cambag organised field trips and helped to mettre la rouste à la coinche aux parigots. Funding was provided by the Programme pluri-formation “Biodiversité terrestre en Nouvelle-Calédonie”, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and Ministère de la Recherche (XB and II) and the Australian Research Council (RS). The study was carried out under permit number 6024–1141/DRN/ENV.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Ineich
    • 1
  • X. Bonnet
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • F. Brischoux
    • 2
    • 4
  • M. Kulbicki
    • 5
  • B. Séret
    • 6
  • R. Shine
    • 3
  1. 1.Département de Systématique et Evolution, USM 602Muséum national d’Histoire naturelleParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CNRSVilliers en BoisFrance
  3. 3.Biological Sciences A08University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Université François RabelaisTours Cedex 1France
  5. 5.IRD, c/o EPHEUniversité de PerpignanPerpignanFrance
  6. 6.Département Systématique et Evolution-Taxonomie & CollectionsMuséum national d’Histoire naturelleParis Cedex 05France

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