Ophisternon candidum

(Mees 1962) Rosen and Greenwood 1976

Ophisternon candidum
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Allen (1989)


Anomatophasma candidum  Mees 1962




Holotype ("Type" in Mees, 1962): WAM P4917-001 356mm TL. Paratype WAM P4918-001 314mm TL. This species is the type species by original designation and monotypy of the genus Anomatophasma.


Type locality: Tantabiddi Well, near Yardie Creek Station, North West Cape, Western Australia (21o56’S, 113o58’E). Details of all other known locations are given in Moore et al (2018) and in the Table below. At four locations this species has been seen at sites from which Milyeringa veritas has also been recorded. The ranges of these two species overlap completely and it appears that both are found throughout the 2 km wide coastal plain fringing the Cape Range of hills (Humphreys and Adams 1991, Adams and Humphreys 1993, Humphreys 1993 Knott 1993).

Area Site name Latitude and longitude Published source
Cape Range Tantabiddi Well

21o56’S, 113o58’E

Cape Range Milyering Well 22o01’S, 113o56’E Mees (1962), Humphreys (1994), (1999)
Cape Range Unnamed 21o47’S, 114o10’E  
Cape Range Ned's Well 21o53’S, 114o06’E  
Cape Range Dozer Cave 21o58’S, 114o08’E

Humphreys (1994), Humphreys and Adams (1991)

Cape Range Pilgramunna Well 22o12’S, 113o52’E

Humphreys (1994)

Cape Range Kubura Well cave 21o56’S, 114o08’E Humphreys and Adams (1991)
Cape Range Just south of Yardie Creek 22o21’S, 113o48’E

Allen (1992)

Cape Range Mowbowra Well 22o00’S, 114o07’E Hunphreys and Adams (1991)
Cape Range Kudumurra Well 21o55’S, 113o59’E

Humphreys (1994)

Cape Range Wobiri Rock Hole 21o50’S, 114o05’E

Humphreys (1994)

Cape Range New Mowbowra Well 22o00’S, 114o07’E

Humphreys (1994)

Cape Range Tidal Cave 21o50’S, 114o06’E

Humphreys (1999)

Pilbara Exploration bore BC186-155 21o49’S, 116o19’E  
Pilbara Borehole JW023 21o47’S, 116o17’E  
Pilbara Borehole JW024 21o47’S, 116o18’E  
Barrow Island Anode Well T2 20o46’S, 115o25’E  
Barrow Island Anode Well L15 20o48’S, 115o23’E  


The distribution of Ophisternon candidum. Information from Moore, Humphreys and Foster (2018).


Details of Kubura Well are provided by Cawthorn (1963). Potential food supply for the fishes is provided by both stygobitic crustaceans  (including representatives of the Thermosbaenacea, Atyidea, and Remipedia) and terrestrial insects and Crustacea. Humphreys and Feinberg (1995) made a detailed examination of the gut contents of some specimens. The fish is carnivorous and eats both other cave fauna (Thermosbenacea, Halosbaena tuski and Atyidae, Stygiocaris sp.) and terrestrial Isopoda, Odonata and Diptera. They clearly obtain food both at the water surface and within the cave.


Much recent work by W.F. Humphreys and others has shed some light on the evolution of the Cape Range troglobites. The area appears to be Tethyan and all but one of its stygofauna is of Tethyan origin.

Conservation Status


(Wager, R. 1996. Ophisternon candidum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: Downloaded on 06 July 2017).I (IUCN 1988, 1990), K (IUCN 1993). Michaelis (1985) classes this species as vulnerable. The Cape Range area is arid and a centre for developments. The water needs of the human population are such that “the water table is declining and becoming more saline" (Humphreys and Adams 1991). The most recent sightings of this animal are in an area where building development is planned.

Museum Holdings

As above plus: AMNH 32404 259mm TL  (Rosen and Greenwood 1976:51), WAM P5813-001 309mm TL, WAM P7716-001 268mm SL (Humphreys and Feinberg 1995), WAM P33136-001 183mm TL, WAM P34329-001 298mm SL, WAM P34487-001 90mm TL, WAM P34487-001 364mm SL, WAM P34615-001 63mm TL, WAM P34657 385mm TL, WAM P34817-001 60mm TL  (Moore 2018, Moore et al. 2018).

Internet Resources

Australian Government conservation assessment

Key References

Mees, G. F. Journal Article 1962 The subterranean freshwater fauna of Yardie Creek Station, North West Cape, Western Australia
Cawthorn, P. Journal Article 1963 Discovery of subterranean freshwater fauna on the eastern side of North West Cape
Richards, A. M. Journal Article 1963 The subterranean freshwater fauna of North West Cape, Western Australia
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
Michaelis, F. Journal Article 1985 Threatened fish. A report on the threatened fish of inland waters of Austalia
Pollard, D. A., Ingram, B. A., Harris, J. H. and Reynolds, L. F. Journal Article 1990 Threatened fishes in Australia - an overview
Humphreys, W. F. and Adams, M. Journal Article 1991 The subterranean aquatic fauna of the North West Cape peninsula, Western Australia
Allen, G.R. Book 1992 Inland Fishes of Western Australia
Humphreys, W. F. Journal Article 1993 The significance of the subterranean fauna in biogeographical reconstruction: Examples from Cape Range Peninsula, Western Australia
Adams, M. and Humphreys, W.F. Journal Article 1993 Patterns of genetic diversity within selected subterranean fauna of the Cape Range penninsula, Western Australia: Systematic and biogeographic implications
Knott, B. Journal Article 1993 Stygofauna of the Cape Range penninsula, Western Australia: Tethyan relicts
Humphreys, W. F. Book 1993 The biogeography of Cape Range, Western Australia
Humphreys, W.F. Journal Article 1994 The subterranean fauna of the Cape Range coastal plane, Northwestern Australia
Humphreys, W. F. and Feinberg, M. N. Journal Article 1995 Food of the blind cave fishes of Northwestern Australia
Yager, J. and Humphreys, W. F. Journal Article 1996 Lasionectes exleyi sp. nov. the first Remipede crustacean recorded from Australia and the Indian Ocean, with a key to the world species
Humphreys, W. F. Book Section 1997 Protection of arid karstlands on the Cape Range Penninsula, Western Australia
Humphreys, W. F. Journal Article 1999 Physico-chemical profile and energy fixation in Bundera Sinkhole, an anchialine remiped habitat in north-western Australia
Humphreys, W. F. Journal Article 1999 The distribution of Australian cave fishes
Humphreys, W. F., Poole, A., Eberhard, S. M. and Warren, D. Journal Article 1999 Effects of research diving on the physico-chemical profile of Bundera Sinkhole, an anchialine remiped habitat at Cape Range, Western Australia
Romero, A. and Vanselow, P.B.S. Journal Article 2000 Threatened fishes of the world: Ophisternon candidum (Mees, 1962) Synbranchidae
Romero, A. and Vanselow, P.B.S. Journal Article 2000 Threatened fishes of the world: Milyeringa veritas Whitley, 1945 (Eleotridae)
Humphreys, W.F. Journal Article 2001 Milyeringa veritas (Eleotridae), a remarkably versatile cave fish from the arid tropics of northwestern Australia
Humphreys, WF Journal Article 2001 The subterranean fauna of Barrow island, northwestern Australia, and its environment
Moore, B. P., Humphreys, W. F., Decu, V. and Juberthie, C. Book Section 2001 Australie
Humphreys, W.F Book Section 2012 Diversity patterns in Australia
Larson, H.K., Foster, R., Humphreys, W.F. and Stevens, M. Journal Article 2013 A new species of blind cave gudgeon Milyeringa (Pisces: Gobioidei, Eleotridaee) from Barrow Island, Western Australia, with a redescription of M. veritas Whitley
Morgan, D.L., Unmack, P.J., Beatty, S.J., Ebner, B.C., Allen, M.G., Keleher, J., Donaldson, J.A. and Murphy, J. Journal Article 2014 An overview of the 'freshwater fishes' of Western Australia
Humphreys, W. F. Book Section 2016 Australasian subterranean biodiversity
Moore, G.I. Journal Article 2018 New morphological data and live photographs of the rare subterranean blind cave eel Ophisternon candidum (Synbranchidae) from north‑western Australia
Moore, G.I., Humphreys, W.F., Foster, R. Journal Article 2018 New populations of the rare subterranean Blind Cave Eel Ophisternon candidum (Synbranchidae) reveal recent historical connections throughout northwestern Australia
Page, T.J., Hughes, J.M., Real, K.M., Stevens, M.I., King, R.A. and Humphreys, W.F. Journal Article 2018 Allegory of a cave crustacean: systematic and biogeographic reality of Halosbaena (Peracarida: Thermosbaenacea) sought with molecular data at multiple scales
Halse, S. Book Section 2018 Subterranean fauna of the arid zone
Page, T.J.,Stevens, M.I., Adams, M., Foster, R. Velasco-Castrillón, A. and Humphreys, W.F. Journal Article 2018 Multiple molecular markers reinforce the systematic framework of unique Australian cave fishes (Milyeringa : Gobioidei)