Moray eels Distinguishing Features
Moray eels (Muraena), are the fish, which belongs to the Anguilliformes family. It has a snake like and scale less body. Moray eels vary significantly in size depending on species, from the ribbon moray at around 25 cm to the giant moray, which can be as much as 4 meters in length. They vary in skin and color when compared among different moray species. The morays have skin that is speckled, striped, freckled or tattooed. They vary in color like brown, green, off white, yellow, black and blue.
The moray eels have a dorsal fin, which runs along the entire length of the body, right from the head to the caudal and anal fins. This makes them appear like a snake as pectoral and pelvic fins are absent.
They have a large head with small eyes located forward and have a wide mouth with large teeth, which helps them in tearing flesh. They also have a secondary set or toothed jaws in their throat, which is known as pharyngeal jaws. The moray eels are the only creature known to use their pharyngeal jaws to grab and hold prey.
There are more than 100 species of moray eel that includes the honeycomb (Muraena melanotis), giant moray eel (Gymnothorax javanicus), zebra morays (Gymnomuraena zebra), snowflake morays (Echidna nebulosa), and white eyed moray (Siderea thyrsoidea), Fimbriated moray (Gymnothorax fimbriatus) and the Ribbon eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita).
Moray eels Behaviour
The moray eels secrete mucus over their smooth skins in larger quantities compared to other eels. This allows them to swim fast around the reef and also keep away from the fear abrasion. Owing to the small size of the gills of the morays, they have to constantly open and close their mouths in a gaping fashion to maintain a flow of water and also for respiration. Due to this reason, the moray eels look fearsome.
Moray eels Feeding Habits
Moray eels are carnivores in nature. Their diet mainly consists of other fish, cephalopods, mollusks and crustaceans. The moray eel hunt mostly at night. This fish have excellent sense of smell, which helps them to hunt though they have poor eyesight. They detect weakened or dead creatures very easily.
Other than hunting they sometimes hide in their crevices and wait till their prey come close to their burrow.
Moray eels Reproduction
Scientific studies have shown that moray eels are hermaphrodites, (i.e., they are male in early ages and later become female), while others are synchronous (i.e., they have both functional ovaries and testes). Thus, they can reproduce with either sex.
Spawning occurs among morays when water temperatures reach their maximum. The morays wrap each other's long slender bodies together; they can be both a couple or two males and a female. Then they release sperm and eggs simultaneously and thus fertilization takes place.
Moray eels Life Cycle
After the egg hatches, the eggs take the form of leptocephalus larvae. This larvae looks like a thin leaf-shaped object and it floats in the open ocean for around 8 months. After that they swim down on the reef and finally become a moray eel. They have a life cycle of around (6 to 36 years).
Moray eels Predation
The major predators of moray eels are the other moray eels. Apart from them large groupers, barracudas and people are the predators of these moray eels.
Moray eels Distribution and Habitat
Morays are found in tropical and temperate seas worldwide. They are found mainly in shallow water among reefs and rocks.