Underwater Life – Green Moray Eel

Do you know what this weekend is? huh huh huh? Okay, yes it’s Father’s Day Weekend (remember your father’s!!) but… It’s the Safari Hunt, cue jungle music, and sounds! If you don’t want to participate in the actual Safari hunt, come and hang out. There is only a 20% chance of rain and temps in the upper 80’s-lower 90’s. Whatever you do, remember your sunscreen. So another place you need sunscreen is the further south you get, which is where a group of us are headed next week (read us lightly… I’m not included in us…). So it’s time for the next edition of Underwater Life.

The Green Moray Eel is a Moray eel of the family Muraenidae.

  • The green moray is actually brown! The yellow tint of the mucus that covers its body, in combination with the drab background color, gives the fish its namesake green color.
  • Aka black moray, green cong, green conger, green congo, green eel, and olive-green moray eel

They are found in the western Atlantic from New Jersey, Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil at depts. Down to 40m. (that converts to 43 yards, almost half a football field for those of you who are football fans! Go Chiefs!!)

  • Animal hides among cracks and crevices, along rocky shorelines and in coral reefs

Its length is up to 2.5m (or 8 feet).

  • Maximum recorded size of 8 feet and 65 pounds.

The moray’s muscular, scaleless body is laterally compressed (flattened side to side).

  • With long scaleless bodies, green moray eels are often feared and mistaken for sea serpents

The Moray eel is considered a “true” eel.

  • Like other true eels
  • The dorsal fin begins just behind its head
  • Extends along the length of its body
  • Is fused with the caudal (tail) and anal fins
  • Lacks both pelvic and pectoral fins.
  • The dorsal fin extends from just behind the head along the back and joins seamlessly with the caudal and anal fins
  • Their eyes are rather small
  • Their jaws are wide, framing a protruding snout
  • Possess large teeth used to tear flesh or grasp slippery prey items

Green morays are sedentary predators with strong teeth.

  • Rather than hunting for food, they wait until food comes to them.
  • They have poor eyesight so they primarily use their sense of smell to hunt for
  • Fish
  • Squid
  • Octopuses
  • Observed eating octopuses whole as well as tentacle by tentacle.
  • Crabs
  • Occasionally other eels

Large green Morays have few natural predators.

  • Vicious reputation comes from the fact that they habitually open and close their mouths, which shows off their sharp teeth.
  • Although this behavior appears threatening, the eel is taking in water to breathe
  • Water passes over the gills and exits through vent-like openings at the back of the head.

Moray eels’ heads are too narrow to create the low pressure most fish use to swallow prey.

  • Quite possibly because of this, they have a second set of jaws in their throat called pharyngeal jaws
  • They also possess teeth

Morays secrete a protective mucus over their smooth, scaleless skin, which in some species contains a toxin.

  • They have a much thicker skin and high densities of goblet cells in the epidermis that allows mucus to be produced at a higher rate than in other eel species.
  • This allows granules to adhere to the sides of their burrows in sand-dwelling morays, thus making the walls of the burrow more permanent due to the glycosylation of mucins in mucus

Their small, circular gills, located on the flanks far posterior to the mouth, require the moray to maintain a gap to facilitate respiration

Moray eels are cosmopolitan

  • Found both tropical and temperate seas
  • The largest species richness is a reef in warm oceans



National Aquarium


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