The broadly distributed Indo-Pacific moray eel Anarchias cantonensis (Schultz, 1943), heretofore treated as a single species, consists of three species: A. cantonensis, A. exulatus, a new species, and A. schultzi, a new species, based on geographic distribution, coloration, external morphometrics, and vertebral counts. We examined 112 specimens and determined that the true A. cantonensis is distributed throughout the eastern Indian Ocean, western Pacific, and tropical central Pacific, and has a mean vertebral formula of 91/93/104. Anarchias exulatus is distributed anti-tropically in the central and southeastern Pacific and is characterized by a unique mottling pattern and a mean vertebral formula of 100/103/114. A third species, named here as A. schultzi, is characterized by a mean vertebral formula of 96/99/109, a plain brown coloration in adult form, and is restricted geographically to Tonga, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and the Caroline Islands. At the Tonga Islands, which reside on the edge of Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, all three species are present, but maintain their morphological distinctiveness and segregate ecologically.
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Vol. 2010 • No. 3