Ophisternon infernale

(Hubbs 1938) Rosen and Greenwood 1976

Ophisternon infernale
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Chumba-Segura (1984)


Pluto infernalis  Hubbs 1938 [Generic name preoccupied in Hymenoptera]

Furmastix infernalis  (Hubbs 1938) Whitley 1957

Synbranchus infernalis  (Hubbs 1938) Mees 1962

Furmatix was incorrectly spelt Furmastik by De Buen (1972).




Holotype: UMMZ 116093 325mm TL. No other types were assigned.  This species is the type species by original designation and monotypy of the genus Pluto Hubbs 1938 and by subsequent designation of Whitley (1957:67) of the genus Furmastix.


Type locality: Cenote de Hoctun, at Hoctun, between Merida and Chichen Itza, Yucatan, México. Known also from three other caves in the same area: Grutas de Balankanche, Cenote de Pochote, and Grutas de Tzab‑Nah (20-21oN, 88-90oW). In all of these caves this species coexists with Typhlias pearsei. Possibly present in Actun Ha and Cenote de Santo Domingo, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Information from Reddell 1981:246‑247).


At least four species of troglobitic shrimps, Typhlatya mitchelli, T. campecheae, T. pearsei (Crustacea, Decapoda, Atyidae) and Creaseria morleyi (Crustacea, Decapoda, Palaemonidae) inhabit the subterranean waters of Yucatan (Hobbs and Hobbs 1976, Holthuis 1977) and these may form part of the food supply of the cave fishes. Reddell (1981) records other aquatic fauna from this area.


Hubbs (1938:291‑292) erected the genus Pluto for this species but stated that it was very close to Synbranchus. Whitley (1957:67) pointed out that the generic name Pluto Hubbs 1938 was preoccupied by Pluto Pate 1937 (Insecta: Hymenoptera) and provided Furmastix as a replacement. Mees (1962:31‑32) argued that since the only differences between Pluto (=Furmastix) and Synbranchus were those associated with a hypogean life the species should be considered a member of the latter genus. Rosen and Greenwood (1976) conducted a thorough cladistic analysis of all Synbranchiform fishes and placed this species in Ophisternon (with five other species, including the stygobitic Ophisternon candidum) on the basis of three synapomorphies.

Conservation Status

[EN A1ac+2c,B1+2c:2.3:1996]

(Contreras-Balderas, S. and Almada-Villela, P. 1996. Ophisternon infernale. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: Downloaded on 06 July 2017). E (Williams et al. 1989), E (IUCN 1990, 1993). The groundwater beneath Merida, one of the largest cities in Yucatan, is contaminated with bacteria from human effluent (Cruickshank, Maguirre, Kraemer and Craviota 1980) and it seems likely that this situation will pertain elsewhere on the peninsula. The same authors report the construction of disposal facilities intended to reduce the contamination. Whether these facilities can keep up with the human population growth remains to be seen. A more recent study of the water supply of Yucatan has been made by Brenner, Medina Gonzalez and Zetina Moguel (1995). See also Medina Gonzalez, Proudlove Chumba-Segura and Iliffe (2001).

Museum Holdings

As above plus: UMMZ M74‑20, AMNH 32405 (Rosen and Greenwood 1976).

Internet Resources

Ophisternon infernale in its natural habitat.

Key References

Hubbs, C. L. Book Section 1938 Fishes from the caves of Yucatan
Parzefall, J. and Wilkens, H. Journal Article 1972 Artbildung bei Hohlenfischen. Vergleichende Untersuchungen an zwei amerikanischen Synbranchiden
Wilkens, H. Journal Article 1973 Uber das phylogenetische Alter von Hohlentieren. Untersuchungen uber die cavernicol Susswasserfauna Yukatans
Rosen, D. E. and Greenwood, P. H. Journal Article 1976 A fourth neotropical species of synbranchid eel and the phylogeny and systematics of synbranchiform fishes
Reddell, J. R. Journal Article 1977 A preliminary survey of the caves of the Yucatan peninsula
Reddell, J. R. Journal Article 1977 Studies on the caves and cave fauna of the Yucatan Peninsula
Wilkens, H. Journal Article 1979 Reductionsgrad und phylogenetisches Alter: Ein Beitrag zur Besiedlungsgeschichte der Limnofauna Yukatans
Reddell, J. R. Journal Article 1979 Zoogeography of the cave fauna of the Yucatan peninsula
Cruickshank, G. G., Maguirre, J., Kraemer, D. M. and Craviota, E. G. Book Section 1980 Bacterial contamination of the limestone aquifer beneath Merida, Mexico
Reddell, J. R. Book 1981 A review of the cavernicole fauna of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize
Wilkens, H. Journal Article 1982 Regressive evolution and phylogenetic age: the history of colonisation of freshwaters of Yucatan by fish and crustacea
Chumba-Segura, L. Journal Article 1984 Synbranchidae: Ophisternon infernale
Wilkens, H. Journal Article 1986 The tempo of regressive evolution: Studies of the eye reduction in stygobiont fishes and decapod crustaceans of the Gulf Coast and Western Atlantic region
Navarro-Mendoza, M Report 1988 Inventario ictio y estudios ecologicos preliminares en los cuerpos de agua continentales en la Reserva de la Biosfera de Sian Ka'an y areas circunvecinas en Quintana Roo, Mexico
Wilkens, H., Strecker, U. and Yager, J. Journal Article 1989 Eye reduction and phylogenetic age of ophidiiform cave fishes
Iliffe, T.M. Book Section 1992 An annotated list of the troglobitic anchialine and freshwater fauna od Quintana Roo
Iliffe, T. M. Book Section 1993 Fauna troglobia acuatica de la Peninsula de Yucatan
Scholz, T., Vargas-Vazquez, J. and Moravec, F. Journal Article 1996 Bothriocephalus pearsei n. sp. (Cestoda: Pseudophyllidea) from Cenote Fishes of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Pohlman, J. W., Iliffe, T. M. and Cifuentes, L. A. Journal Article 1997 A stable isotope study of organic cycling and the ecology of an anchialine cave ecosystem
Moravec, F., Vargas-Vazquez, J. and Gonzalez-Solis, D. Journal Article 1999 Nematode parasites from the blind fish Ogilbia pearsei from the Nohoch system with remarks on Rhabdochona kidderi (Nematoda) from the fishes of Yucatan, Mexico
Medina Gonzalez, R., Proudlove, G. S., Chumba-Segura, L. and Iliffe, T. Journal Article 2001 Threatened fishes of the world: Ophisternon infernale (Hubbs, 1938) (Synbranchidae)
Perry, E, Velazquez-Oliman, G and Marin, L Journal Article 2002 The hydrogeochemistry of the karst aquifer system of the northern Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Beddows, PA Journal Article 2003 Cave hydrology of the Caribbean Yucatan coast
Perdices, A, Doadrio, I and Bermingham, E Journal Article 2005 Evolutionary history of the synbranchid eels (Teleostei: Synbranchidae) in Central America and the Caribbean islands inferred from their molecular phylogeny
Alvarez, F. and Iliffe, T.M. Book Section 2008 Fauna anquihalina de Yucatan
Botello, A and Alvarez, F Journal Article 2010 Genetic variation in the stygobitic shrimp Creaseria morleyi (Decapoda: Palaemonidae), evidence of bottlenecks and re-invasions in the Yucatan Peninsula
Bauer-Gottwein, P., Gondwe, B.R.N. and Charver, G. Journal Article 2011 Review: the Yucatan Peninsula karst aquifer, Mexico
Botello, A, Iliffe, TM, Alvarez, F, Juan, C, Pons, J and Jaume, D Journal Article 2012 Historical biogeography abd phylogeny of Typhlatya cave shrimps (Decapoda:Atyidae) based on mitochondrial and nuclear data
Palacios-Vargas, J.G., Juberthie, C. and Reddell, J. Book 2014-2015 Encyclopaedia Biospeologica Mexico
Calderon-Gutierrez, F., Solis-Marin, F.A., Gomez, P., Sanchez, C., Hernandez-Alcantara, P., Alvarez-Noguera, F. and Yanez-Mendoza, G. Journal Article 2017 Mexican anchialine fauna - with emphasis in the high biodiversity cave El Aerolito
Chávez-Solís, E.M., Mejía-Ortíz, L.M. and Simões, N. Journal Article 2017 Predatory behavior of the cave shrimp Creaseria morleyi (Creaser, 1936) (Caridea: Palaemonidae), the blind hunter of the Yucatán cenotes, Mexico
Hendus, B., Medina-González, R., Sélem-Salas, C. and Vanschoenwinkel, B. Journal Article 2019 Explaining diversity patterns in dark waters – a study of aquatic caves in Yucatán, Mexico
McNeill-Jewer, C.A., Reinhardt, E.G., Collins, S., Kovacs, S., Chan, W.M., Devos and LeMaillot, F.C. Journal Article 2019 The effect of seasonal rainfall on nutrient input and biological productivity in the Yax Chen cave system (Ox Bel Ha), Mexico, and implications for μXRF core studies of paleohydrology
Grego, J., Angyal, D. and Beltrán, L.A.L. Journal Article 2019 First record of subterranean freshwater gastropods (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Cochliopidae) from the cenotes of Yucatán state
Espinasa, L., Chávez Solís, E.M., Mascaró, M., Rosas, D., Simoes, N. and Violette, G. Journal Article 2019 A new locality and phylogeny of the stygobitic Typhlatya shrimps for the Yucatan Peninsula
Fragoso-Servón, P., Pereira-Corona, A. and Bautista, F. Journal Article 2019 The karst and its neighbors: Digital map of geomorphic environments in Quintana Roo, Mexico
Benítez, S., Iliffe, T.M., Quiroz-Martínez, B. and Alvarez, F. Journal Article 2019 How is the anchialine fauna distributed within a cave? A study of the Ox Bel Ha System, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico