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There are also scientists like Doug and Tim Watts, who fight to get the eel enlisted as an endangered species, its numbers diminished due to dams and overharvesting by commercial fisheries.

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This documentary brings the dark world of the eel into focus. We embark on a journey, which takes us all over the world, from New Zealand to the Sargasso Sea and into the estuaries along the East coast of the United States.

Watch the whole production. Nature Secrets of the Eel.

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  • Synopsis Though much of the natural world is already discovered and understood, a few great mysteries remain. Watch the trailer. Swamp eels are unusual among fish in that they are able to live out of water and breathe air, and the new discovery is no exception — researchers found the slender, eyeless eel writhing under moist, rocky soil about feet 50 meters from a nearby stream.

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    Its bright red color is a hallmark of an adaptation for surviving on land, where other fish would swiftly suffocate. Fish typically draw oxygen from water by filtering it through their gills. But swamp eels, also known as synbranchids, have reduced gills, and instead suck oxygen directly from the air through their mouths, using specialized tissue threaded with a dense network of blood vessels, lead study author Ralf Britz, a fish researcher with the Department of Life Sciences at the Natural History Museum NHM in London, told Live Science in an email.

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    And the newly discovered eyeless swamp eel has one more trick for extracting oxygen from air: "skin breathing," or absorbing oxygen directly through its skin , Britz said. Like the flesh in its mouth, the eel's skin is also crammed with blood vessels, which lend the animal its red color, he explained. The researchers discovered M.

    They found only one specimen of the blind, blood-red swamp eel, at a depth of about 16 inches 40 centimeters below the surface, according to the study. Its underground lifestyle likely eliminated its need for sight; its eyes were tiny, covered with skin, and "barely visible externally," the researchers reported.

    Differentiating between swamp eel species can be very tricky; fish biologists typically compare physical features such as fins or scales in order to tell species apart. Unhelpfully, swamp eels have none of those features.