View Full Version : New Week 8 - Moray Eel

December 22nd, 2008, 01:15 PM
Moray Eel

Moray eels live in both tropical and subtropical seas. They are found in Atlantic Ocean waters from New Jersey in the United States all the way to the country of Brazil. They live in relatively shallow waters usually no deeper than about fifty feet and can often be seen by divers squeezed within small crevices between rocks and corals. They appear timid or withdrawn but can become very aggressive if their territories are not respected by nearby visitors.

Moray eels are different from other types of eel species in that they are thick, smooth, and without scales. Their mouths open wide and they possess strong jaws with very sharp teeth which allow them to hold onto prey and also to inflict damage to their enemies should they be attacked. They are considered to be an aggressive species and when harassed they can appear unpredictable and territorial. They are considered to be the most dangerous of all species to the lobster and the octopus. The moray eels are not considered a threat to man and seem to only attack humans when they are disturbed within their chosen territories.

They have distinct markings and coloration, and normally do not get larger than 5 feet, although one species, Thyrsoidea macrurus, of the Pacific Ocean, can grow to about 11 feet long. Most Hawaiian moray eels grow from 2 to 3 feet in length and are very thick or fat. The morays physical characteristics are like a snake’s. They are long and slithery and move similar to the way a snake might move on land. They also possess very muscular jaw structures for holding onto prey.

Moray eels love a rocky area habitat and hide between the smallest of openings. They could be considered dangerous to humans who are diving or fishing in certain areas. Their razor sharp teeth could cause a serious injury and their jaws can become locked. Injuries can result in bleeding, severe muscle damage, and chipped bones. If bitten by a moray the individual should make sure to get medical attention as quickly as possible. As a precaution, divers should keep their hands out of unfamiliar areas where the eels could be resting. A probe or stick can be used to safely bring them out of a hiding place. The smell of dead fish, blood or bait will also get their attention so fishermen should be aware. It can bruise a person's arm of leg by wrapping around it and squeezing tightly. They can be great escape artists whether through a small space in an aquarium or from a fisherman’s line.

The green moray eel actually has blue skin but the animal secretes a thick yellow slime coat that gives it the appearance of being green. The green moray is the largest species and probably the most often seen by man. This species can grow to about eight feet in length. They range from the appearance of green to brown. Morays are best known for their bright colors, large size, and very strong bites.

The moray eel uses its keen sense of smell to locate prey. It eats many different kinds of fish. It is not considered to be a finicky eater and if it finds another animal whether it is alive or dead it will try to make it a meal. The larger the moray eel, the larger the prey it can consume. The main reason the moray only eats what it can swallow whole is that it needs a constant flow of water through its mouth to breathe. This habit can make the moray look more threatening than what it really is. The moray has very poor eye sight, but a keen sense of smell. They are considered to be almost blind. It usually hides during the day, but comes out at night to search for food. It eats octopi, small fish, shrimps, crabs, and even barnacles. It will even take huge bites out of other fish like the barracuda does. It often feeds on the prey that get too close to its home. The moray eels' movement is by way of swimming. They glide through the water by wiggling their bodies to the side. They can swim backwards as well as forwards and are very quick considering their length and size.

The moray eel receives great benefits from certain fish which help to remove parasites, worms, and fungus from its skin. The eel realizes how valuable these cleaner fish such as the wrasse are and leave it alone to do its job. Another fish that looks similar to the wrasse called the blenny uses this relationship to its own advantage. It seems near the eel and takes a bite out of its lips for its food then hurriedly swims away before the eel realizes what has happened.

Human beings are the moray eels’ greatest predator. In some countries eels are caught for food. Many eels produce a poison that greatly discourages it from being considered a food source. The moray doesn’t have this advantage of producing poison directly but it is believed to be somewhat toxic if eaten and could cause serious sickness or even death to its unlucky consumer.

The moray eel species has several relatives which include the American eel, the conger eel, the worm eel, the gulper eel, the ribbon eel, the garden eel, the snipe eel, and the wolf eel. Green Moray eels are the most common and perhaps the most interesting to watch. They are a beautiful, majestic species of fish and add to the mystery of the high seas.