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      Monopterus albus (Photo: Leo G. Nico, USGS, Gainesville, FL) - Click for full size
    Taxonomic name: Monopterus albus (Zuiew, 1793)
    Synonyms: Fluta alba (Bloch and Schneider, 1801)
    Common names: rice eel (English), swamp eel (English), white ricefield eel (English)
    Organism type: fish
    Although its impacts are unknown, Monopterus albus' predaceous and generalised feeding habit poses a potential threat to native fish, frogs and aquatic invertebrates. In Florida and Georgia, introduction is likely due to an aquarium release or a fish farm escape or release. It is believed that Monopterus albus was originally brought to Hawaii by Asian immigrants as a food fish.
    Description
    Aguirre and Poss (1999) state that the body of M. albus is more or less cylindrical; the tail is compressed, tapering to a slender point much shorter than the trunk. Scales are absent. The snout is bluntly rounded, and the jaws and palate have rows of viliform teeth. The upper lip is thick overlapping part of the lower lip. The eye is small, covered by a layer of skin. Body colour is slate brown above and white to light-brown below with small, dark spots on its sides and occasionally on the ventral surface. M. albus may grow to a metre in length, but most grow to between 25cm and 40cm.
    Occurs in:
    agricultural areas, water courses, wetlands
    Habitat description
    Bricking (2002) states that M. albus lives in muddy ponds, swamps, canals, and rice fields, where it burrows in moist earth in the dry season, surviving for long periods without water.
    General impacts
    According to Bricking (2002), the impacts of M. albus are uncertain, however, they are likely to affect the population size of their prey, as well as the availability of food sources for larger fish, turtles, frogs and wading birds. M. albus consumes crayfish, tadpoles, small fish, and worms. They can eat some larger prey as well, by grabbing them with their mouths, and spinning until they are torn in half. M. albus may also play a role in altering the habitat beneath ponds and marshy regions where they burrow nests to wait out dry seasons. Declines in native centrarchids from some areas of the United States have been attributed to this species (Nico, 1999).
    Uses
    According to Bricking (2002), in Asia,M. albus are considered a food fish, and a delicacy. They are also found in markets as food in the United States, as well as in pet supply stores, although they are not as well known.
    Geographical range
    Native range: Bricking (2002) states that M. albus is native to Central and South America, Africa, Australia, and from India to eastern Asia, including much of China.
    Known introduced range: In recent years, M. albus has been reported in the United States in Hawai‘i, Florida, and Georgia.
    Introduction pathways to new locations
    Live food trade: M. albus was originally brought to Hawaii by Asian immigrants as a food fish, and purposely released into the wild (Bricking, 2002).


    Local dispersal methods
    Escape from confinement: In Florida and Georgia, the introduction of M. albus is likely due to an aquarium release or a fish farm escape or release (Bricking, 2002).
    Nutrition
    Bricking (2002) states that M. albus are nocturnal generalized predators (carnivores) that devour fishes, worms, crustaceans, and other small aquatic animals.
    Reproduction
    According to Aguirre and Poss (1999), M. albus eggs are laid into a bubble nest in shallow water. The nest is typically not attached to vegetation but floats freely at the surface. One or both parents guard the eggs and young.
    Reviewed by: Anon
    Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
    Last Modified: Sunday, 26 June 2005


ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland