Rare blind eel found in the Pilbara

Shannon BeattiePilbara News

The Pilbara is home to two new populations of one of WA’s rarest and most bizarre animals, the blind cave eel.

A team of researchers led by scientists from the Western Australian Museum have identified the new types of eel which are one of only three Australian vertebrates known to be entirely restricted to underground waters.

The slender eel has adapted to life in the darkness, it has no eyes, no scales, no fins and unpigmented white or pink skin.

The blind cave eelwas first reported from the cave system of Cape Range peninsula, near Exmouth in 1959 with the two new finds being discovered at Bungaroo Creek near Pannawonica and Barrow Island.

WA Museum curator of fishes Dr Glenn Moore said that these new populations are exactly the same species as those found in 1959, despite the hundreds of kilometres of distance between them.

“The genetics suggests that the populations probably don’t mix with each other now, they almost certainly can’t cross between rivers in the arid Pilbara or move via the sea, so they are now isolated from each other,” he said.

“The Pilbara finds are an exciting discovery — the blind cave eel is a bizarre and enigmatic species that most people have probably never heard of.”

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