Eptatretus octatrema 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Myxini Myxiniformes Myxinidae

Scientific Name: Eptatretus octatrema (Barnard, 1923)
Common Name(s):
English Eightgilled Hagfish, Eightgill Hagfish
Heptatretus octatrema Barnard, 1923
Taxonomic Notes: According to Fernholm (1986, 1998), E. octatrema was only known from the 300 mm holotype. In the original description, Barnard (1923) apparently described only one specimen, but he stated “…ventral fin ending only a short distance (8-10 mm) behind last gill-opening”. The range “8-10 mm” could be evidence that there were at least two specimens used for the description. In addition, the only other known specimen BMNH 1927.12.6.1 (formerly SAM 13031) is listed as "co-type" in the original register. According to the SAM database (M. Bougaardt pers. comm.), the station data for these specimens are: SAM 13030, Cape Saint Blaize, North 1/4 North, 6.5 miles, 36 fm (66 m), 28 June 1899, shrimp trawl, RV Pieter Faure; and BMNH 1927.12.6.1 [ex SAM 13031], Cape Saint Blaize, West 3/4 North, 4 miles, 27 fm (49 m), 25 January 1900, trawl, RV Pieter Faure. Based on this evidence, both specimens are considered here as syntypes of E. octatrema. Also, the type locality provided in Barnard’s (1923) original description (“Agulhas Bank, 25-40 fm”) is an assumed approximation.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2009-11-10
Assessor(s): Mincarone, M.M.
Reviewer(s): Polidoro, B., Knapp, L. & Carpenter, K.E.
This species is only known from two historical records and one unconfirmed recent record. However, extensive surveys have been carried out within its known range. Given this species' shallow water habitat and current distribution, its extent of occurrence is estimated as 100 km². Although this fish may be naturally rare, is threatened by both historic and current trawling activities throughout its restricted shallow water range. It is listed as Critically Endangered. More research is needed to determine if this species still maintains a viable population.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is known only from the type locality, off Cape Saint Blaize, South Africa, but this dates back to 1900.
Countries occurrence:
South Africa
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – southeast
Additional data:
Number of Locations:1
Lower depth limit (metres):66
Upper depth limit (metres):49
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population information is only known from two type specimens collected in 1899 and 1900. Since then, only one unconfirmed specimen has been recorded in the past 110 years (Hollemon pers. comm. 2010), despite extensive and systematic scientific surveying (using fine mesh nets) that is conducted twice a year in the area. There are three other deep-water species of hagfish in this area that have been significantly recorded during these surveys.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is found on the continental shelf, at depths from 49-66 m.

The copulatory organ is absent for this species. The gonads of hagfishes are situated in the peritoneal cavity. The ovary is found in the anterior portion of the gonad, and the testis is found in the posterior part. The animal becomes female if the cranial part of the gonad develops or male if the caudal part undergoes differentiation. If none develops, then the animal becomes sterile. If both anterior and posterior parts develop, then the animal becomes a functional hermaphrodite. However, hermaphroditism being characterised as functional needs to be validated by more reproduction studies (Patzner 1998).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Hake (Merluccius spp.) trawling is extensive in the area where specimens have been previously recorded and is causing a continual decline in the quality of the habitat. Other trawling activities such as shrimp fisheries also exist in the area (S. Fennessy pers. comm.). Given this species' shallow water habitat, it is also likely to be vulnerable to coastal development, dredging, etc.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no conservation measures in place for this species, but more research needed on species' biology, population size, distribution and impacts. Given no specimen has been collected since 1900, further surveys should be regarded as a high research priority to confirm presence of species in the area.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.5. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy-Mud

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology

Bibliography [top]

Adam, H. and Strahan, R. 1963. Systematics and geographical distribution of myxinoids. In: A. Brodal and R. Fänge (eds), The biology of Myxine, pp. 588. Universitetsforlaget, Oslo.

Barnard, K.H. 1923. Diagnoses of new species of marine fishes from South African waters. Annals of the South African Museum 13: 439-444.

Fernholm, B. 1986. Myxinidae. In: M.M. Smith and P.C. Heemstra (eds), Smiths’ sea fishes, pp. 35-36. Macmillan, Johannesburg.

Fernholm, B. 1998. Hagfish systematics. In: J.M. Jørgensen, J.P. Lomholt, R.E. Weber and H. Malte (eds), The Biology of Hagfishes, pp. 33-44. Chapman & Hall, London.

IUCN. 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.1). Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2017).

Patzner, R.A. 1998. Gonads and reproduction in hagfishes. In: J.M. Jørgensen, J.P. Lomholt, R.E. Weber, and H. Malte (eds), The biology of hagfishes, pp. 378-395. Chapman & Hall, London.

Smith, M.M. 1975. Common and scientific names of the fishes of Southern Africa. Part 1. Marine fishes. J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology Special Publication.

Citation: Mincarone, M.M. 2011. Eptatretus octatrema. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T196038A8996587. . Downloaded on 24 June 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided