Amazing sea creatures: Moray eel
The moray eel
The moray eel (Family Muraenidae) is a long snake like fish which lacks real fins. Lacking the anatomy to be a great swimmer the moray eel often lives in craks and holes in rocks where it patiently waits for an inattentive prey to get to close. They live almost in all seas and oceans around the world but most species prefer warmer parts of the ocean. Most moray eels live in salt water but a few species were found to be living in freshwater. They live near the ocean floor end prefer to live in holes in rocks or coral reefs. Most moray eels have camouflage colors to blend in with the rocks or the coral reef in which they live. What’s amazing about the eels is that they even have camouflage colors inside their mouth. This is necessary because it constantly opens its mouth to breathe and would otherwise be seen far too easily by its prey and predators.
The bigger moray eel species eat any kind of small sea creatures, the smaller ones feed on algae and bacteria which grow on the ocean bottom. The larger species sit and wait inside their hole until a prey animal swims by and then it lashes out and grabs it. With impaired vision and hearing the eels rely strongly on their smell to locate their prey. This makes the night the ideal time for hunting, and that's why moray eels are nocturnal creatures. The moray eel has a unique way of swallowing their prey, this is due to their alien-like second set of jaws (or pharyngeal jaws) which they have in the back of their throat (very nicely visible in the video above!). When they lash out at a prey, they grab it with their first set of jaws first, then with the second while holding it with the first set. When the second set of jaws has a hold on the prey it pulls the prey into the digestive system. The moray eel is the only animal in the world which uses its pharyngeal jaws while hunting.
The moray eel does not have much predators, but some other sea creatures are brave enough to take on the moray eel. Among these are the sea snakes, barracudas and groupers, sometimes moray eels even hunt each other.
Moray eel mucous toxins
The moray eels have several toxins in their mucous and on their skins slime coat. Because of their thick skin they do not suffer from these toxins themselves. Because of these toxins a bite from a moray eel can be more painfull and bleed longer and harder compared to a bite from any other predator fish. One of the toxins is hemagglutinin, this substance affects the red blood cells, so the blood does not clot like it normally does.
Moray eel species
A short list with some unusual moray eel species:
Giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus):
The giant moray is the biggest and heaviest of them all, they can be as big as 3 meters long, these big moray eels can inflict severe wounds with their big jaws.
The genus Echidna contains some of the more colorful moray eels which display patterns.
Viper Moray (Enchelynassa Formosa):
With its vicious set of teeth and dark skin the viper moray is by far the meanest-looking moray eel out there. Thanks to this species people are prone to think that moray eels are aggressive creatures.
Slender giant moray (Strophidon sathete)
This is the longest of all the moray eels with a length of 4 meters. It is slimmer and lighter then the normal giant moray.
Dragon moray eel (Enchelycore pardalis)
This eel has two horns on its head, giving them a resemblance to a dragon, hence the name.
Moray eels as pets
Moray eels are sold as pets, but they do not live long in captivity. Most moray eels stop eating after being caught and do not last much longer then a month and a half. This is mostly because they need a big tank, strong water circulation and at least one decent hole or crack for them to live in.
Swimming moray eel
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- Life Under the Ice
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- Japanese spider crab
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