Ryan Photographic - Muraenidae - Moray eels


Invertebrates
Chordates
Photo Library
Search

Family Muraenidae

Fishbase lists 200 species of moray in 15 genera. They are widely distributed, being found in all oceans outside of the polar and sub-polar regions. One species lives in freshwater and many more can be encountered in brackish water. Highest diversity is found in the tropics. They range in size from the diminutive (11.5 cm) Snyder's moray (Anarchias leucurus) to the giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus) which can reach 3m and 30 kg (I doubt this figure - these morays are so thick that a 3m specimen has to weigh more than 30 kg).

Morays have often been depicted in the popular literature as vicious and dangerous. Part of this reputation stems from the fact that a moray has to open and close its mouth to force water over the gills - this is misinterpreted by the non-biologist as threatening behavior. However they are big, powerful fish with lots of teeth and people do get bitten by them. A friend of mine was bitten in the finger while we were diving in the Sea of Cortez near Loreto. The eel must have mistaken his ungloved hand as a potential meal as it rushed out, bit and withdrew. Dave's finger bled profusely and he had to abort the dive - it probably should have had stitches but he went on the next dive anyway.

Morays have a set of pharyngeal teeth. Biologists have known about these ever since the advent of modern taxonomy. They were considered vestigial, that is present but not of much use. That was until a graduate student in California filmed slow motion footage of morays feeding. She observed these pharyngeal teeth being extruded into the jaw where they held food. I have seen (and photographed) a moray capture an angelfish which was far too big for the moray to ingest. At the time I thought it was misguided. Later, I thought that the pharyngeal teeth were probably tearing chunks out of the prey and allowing it to feed on smaller pieces. But the discoverer of this mechanism reports in a letter to Nature that the jaws help manipulate prey, which, together with extreme jaw elasticity, allow it to swallow large prey. Unfortunately the eel in the photograph retreated into the reef and I was unable to see the prey swallowed. Feeding eels can be a dangerous activity - here is video footage of a diver having his thumb bitten off by a large moray (ignore the banal references to "shark infested" water and please come back to my site).

It has recently been discovered that at least tw fish species, humphead wrasse and coral grouper, actively recruit a moray to help them in hunting.

While all morays are carnivores they don't all feed on fish. Some such as the snowflake moray and the zebra moray eat hard shelled crustaceans and possess crushing, rather than holding teeth.

Large eels may be ciguatoxic - that is they concentrate toxins from the fish they eat. These prey species pick up the toxins from a dinoflagellate which adheres to the algae and coral on which they feed. The toxin is unaffected by cooking. It is believed, but not yet scientifically demonstrated, that some morays may produce venom.

 

Anarchias galapagensis Hard tail moray

hardtail moray photo

FISH 6331 Anarchias galapagensis Hard tail moray, Sea of Cortez.

Echidna nebulosa Snowflake moray

Echidna nebulosa Snowflake moray Fiji

FISH 325 Echidna nebulosa Snowflake moray Fiji.

Gymnomuraena zebra Zebra moray

zebra moray photo

FISH 7014 Gymnomuraena zebra, zebra moray, Sea of Cortez.

Zebra moray, Philippines

FISH 5024 Gymnomuraena zebra Zebra moray, Puerto Galera, Philippines.

Gymnothorax castaneus Panamic green moray

Gymnothorax castaneus Panamic green moray Sea of Cortez

FISH 2680 Gymnothorax castaneus Panamic green moray Sea of Cortez.

Gymnothorax eurostus Abbott's moray

Abbott's moray

FISH 6337 Gymnothorax eurostus Abbott's moray, Kona, Hawai'i.

Abbott's moray photo

FISH 6338 Gymnothorax eurostus Abbott's moray, Kona, Hawai'i.

Abbott's moray photo

FISH 6339 Gymnothorax eurostus Abbott's moray, Kona, Hawaii.

Gymnothorax fimbriatus Fimbriated moray

Gymnothorax fimbriatus Fimbriated moray Puerto Galera, Philippines

FISH 6005 Gymnothorax fibriatus Fimbriated moray Puerto Galera, Philippines.

Fimbriated moray photo

FISH 3931 Gymnothorax fimbriatus Fimbriated moray, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

fimbirate dmoray with captured angelfish

FISH 3872 Gymnothorax fimbriatus Fimbriated moray with captured vermiculated angelfish Chaetodontoplus mesoleucas, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Gymnothorax funebris Green moray

Green moray being cleaned by cleaner gobies

Gymnothorax funebris, Green moray being cleaned by cleaner gobies, Glover's Reef, Belize.

Gymnothorax javanicus Giant moray eel

Giant moray eel photo

Gymnothorax javanicus Giant moray eel, Niue.

Yellowmargin moray being cleaned by cleaner fish

FISH 3824 Gymnothorax javanicus Giant moray being cleaned by cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua. Photo by Dave Herrick.

photo of yellowmargin moray

FISH 3824 Gymnothorax javanicus Giant moray, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Gymnothorax meleagris Whitemouth moray

whitemouth moray photo

Gymnothorax meleagris Whitemouth moray eel, Fiji.

Gymnothorax moringa Spotted moray

spotted moray photo

Gymnothorax moringa Spotted moray, Cozumel.

Spotted moray Belize

Gymnothorax moringa Spotted moray, Glover's Reef, Belize.

Spotte dmoray Belize photo

Gymnothorax moringa Spotted moray 2, Glover's Reef, Belize.

Gymnothorax nubilus Grey moray

Grey moray eel

FISH 9120 Gymnothorax nubilus, Grey moray, Poor Knights, New Zealand.

Gymnothorax pictus Peppered moray

Peppered moray

FISH 2398 Gymnothorax pictus? Peppered moray, photogtraphed in rock pool, Taveuni, Fiji.

Gymnothorax prasinus Yellow moray

Yellow moray photo

FISH 9079 Gymnothorax prasinus Yellow moray, Poor Knights, New Zealand.

Gymnothorax zonipectis Bartail moray

Gymnothorax zonipectis Bar tail moray, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

FISH 7874 Gymnothorax zonipectis Bartail moray, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Gymnothorax zonipectis Bar tail moray, Kri Eco, Raja Ampa

FISH 7894 Gymnothorax zonipectis Bartail moray, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Muraena lentiginosa Jewel moray

Jewel moray

FISH 6254 Muraena lentiginosa Jewel moray, Sea of Cortez.

Rhinomuraena quaesita Blue ribbon eel or leafnose moray

LEAFNOSE OR BLUE RIBBON EEL PHOTO

Rhinomuraena quaesita Blue ribbon eel or leafnose moray, Fiji

Siderea thysoidea White-eyed moray

Siderea thysoidea White-eyed moray, Puerto Galera, Philippines

FISH 4462 Siderea thysoidea White-eyed moray, Puerto Galera, Philippines

 

 

[Previous]

Fishes

[Next]

 

[Up]

 Photo Library

[Home]  Home Page
[Contents]  Dr Paddy Ryan Contents
[Contact]  Contact Paddy

 

Ryan Photographic, 2802 East 132nd Circle, Thornton, CO  80241  USA  Phone 303-4919-7145