Moray Eel (Gymnothorax)

© 2000 by Image Quest 3-D
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Photograph by Carlos Villoch

(PHYLUM: Chordata, CLASS: Osteichthyes, ORDER: Anguilliformes , FAMILY: Muraenidae)

This species of moray eel belongs to the family Muraenidae which is one of the most widespread of the eel families. Moray eels normally range in size from 20cm to almost 4m. The largest species is the Longtail Moray, Strophidon Sathete, which is found in the Indo-Pacific oceans. There are around 200 different species of moray eel worldwide. They occur in all of the tropical and temperate oceans of the world. They can normally be found in shallow rocky waters with only their head showing from a hole. Nearly all species of moray eel are bottom dwelling fish, and some only leave the protection of crevices to swim to their open water spawning grounds or to grab prey as it passes.

Moray eels are incredibly well adapted to their carnivorous lifestyle, with an excellent sense of smell, sharp and well-structured teeth and a really strong and flexible body. They can use their long bodies to tie themselves in a knot which helps them when tearing food. Their bodies make it possible for them to swim, which they do in an anguilliform style, by compressing themselves into a wave shape. They can also swim well backwards.

Moray eels are not considered dangerous to humans, although there have been incidents when morays have bitten divers hands. This may be explained by the poor eye-sight of many species.

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