Updated: Jun 19
Most scuba divers are familiar with the sight of a small (or larger) mouth opening and closing as it pokes out of a crevasse in the reef. Morays can be encountered on scuba dives from the Red Sea to the Indo-Pacific to the Caribbean and beyond. Non-divers might think of the famous moray duo in the animated film "The Little Mermaid". Read on for 7 interesting facts about these weird and wonderful reef residents.
7 Facts About Moray Eels
Moray eels are a type of fish that are found in both saltwater and freshwater environments around the world, living primarily in crevices and holes in coral reefs or rocky areas.
There are over 200 different species of moray eels, with varying sizes and color patterns. Giant morays (Gymnothorax javanicus) can grow up to 13 feet (4 meters) long!
Moray eels have a unique body shape, with a long, slender body and no scales. To swim, moray eels use a long dorsal fin, which runs from just behind the head to the end of the tail.
These eels are carnivorous and feed on a variety of marine creatures, including fish, crabs, squid, and octopuses. They are known to be opportunistic hunters and can even attack larger prey such as small sharks when hungry.
Moray eels have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell, which they use to locate food. They also have a second set of jaws, called the pharangeal jaws, located in their throat that can shoot forward to grab prey and pull it back into their mouth.
While moray eels are not aggressive towards humans, they can be dangerous if provoked or cornered. They have been known to bite when threatened and their bites can be painful due to their sharp teeth and bacteria in their mouths. There have even been instances of divers discovering moray eel teeth inside a wound caused by a bite!
Moray eels are considered apex predators because there are few marine inhabitants that prey on morays. Groupers, barracudas, white tip sharks, and sea snakes are known to occasionally target moray eels for a meal, however, large morays are powerful enough to ward off most animals.
Moray eels make fascinating but challenging underwater photography subjects. Learn how to capture these critters like a pro!
Practice photographing eels and other photogenic creatures at one of Bluewater Travel's guided underwater photography workshops!