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Protanguilla palau.jpg
(a) Holotype, female, 176 mm SL.
(b–g) Paratype, juvenile, 65 mm SL;
(c,d) head in lateral and ventral view;
(e) gill opening;
(f,g) stained body scales.[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Anguilliformes
Family: Protanguillidae
G. D. Johnson, H. Ida & Miya, 2012
Genus: Protanguilla
G. D. Johnson, H. Ida & Miya, 2012
Species: P. palau
Binomial name
Protanguilla palau
G. D. Johnson, H. Ida & Sakaue, 2012

Protanguilla palau (aspen eel) is a species of eel, the only species in the genus Protanguilla (first eel), which is in turn the only genus in its family, Protanguillidae. Individuals were found swimming in March 2010 in a deep underwater cave in a fringing reef off the coast of Palau.[1]


The body is very small and slender, about 18 cm long.[2][3] The eel has a second premaxilla and under 90 vertebrae, features previously found only in fossilised eels. Its full set of gill rakers in its branchial arches has never previously been found in an eel, but is common in bony fish.[4] It is very different from all other living eels, and scientists estimate it must have diverged from the others around 200 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era. It thus has not only its own species, but also its own genus and family, as well, and has been referred to by scientists as a "living fossil".[3]


  1. ^ a b Johnson, G. D.; Ida H.; Sakaue J.; Sado T.; Asahida T.; Miya M. (2012). "A 'living fossil' eel (Anguilliformes: Protanguillidae, fam nov) from an undersea cave in Palau". Proceedings of the Royal Society. (in press). doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1289. open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ 'Fossil eel' squirms into the record books, Agence France-Presse, 16 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b Rincon, Paul (17 August 2011). "New Pacific eel is a 'living fossil', scientists say". BBC News. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Scientists discover the most primitive living eel". 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 

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