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Moray Eels

The life and variety of moray eels is facinating. Pictures by David and Janet Morgan

Moray eels (Family Muraenidae)

There are about 200 species which occur worldwide in tropical and warm temperate seas. Most species are found on coral reefs, but a few occur in estuaries or in turbid water over silty sand bottom. Morays range in size from the white spotted dwarf moray, which attains a maximum length of 18 cm, to the massive giant moray, which may attain 3 m in length and a weight of 70 kg.

The body is usually robust (muscular), more compressed towards the tail, with no scales or paired (pectoral and pelvic) fins. The front nostrils are short tubes (except for the ribbon moray which has enlarged, funnel-shaped nostrils) at the front of the snout, and the rear nostrils are located above the front part of the eye; the gill openings are reduced to a small, slit-like hole on each side of the head, about two mouth-lengths behind the corner of the mouth. The dorsal and anal fins are continuous round the tip of the tail.

Morays are common on coral reefs and are often seen with their heads poking out of a hole in the reef. They are usually not aggressive and present no danger to divers as long as they are left alone. Hand-feeding morays is risky business. Some morays are active (swimming about the reef) during the day, while others are nocturnal in their habits, and all morays are carnivores, feeding on a variety of fishes, cephalopods (mainly octopus) and crustaceans.

Click to enlarge the pictures

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Spot Faced Moray
White Eyed Moray


Studies of the reproduction of morays have revealed two types of hermaphroditism: most species appear to be protandrous (sequential) hermaphrodites that become mature as males and then later in life change to females; but some species are synchronous (simultaneously male and female) hermaphrodites, with functional ovaries and testes at the same time.

Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge
Green Moray
Honeycomb Moray

Fact or fiction

Ancient Romans bred moray eels in seaside ponds and supposedly fed them on live slaves. Their flesh can be toxic and King Henry I of England (1068-1135) is supposed to have died from indigestion caused by eating moray eel.

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Snow Flake Moray - Photo ? Where
  Leopard Moray - Photo ? Where

That's a moray!

Sung to the tune of Dean Martin's "That's amore"

There's a thing on the reef, with big shiny white teeth - it's a Moray
If he's big and he's mean, and he's slimy and green - it's a Moray

Put your hand in the crack and you won't get it back - It's a Moray
When you're movin' your hands, best take care where they land - Watch for Morays

When some teeth catch your eye. and an eel wriggles by - It's a Moray
when something, bites your fin, and throws off your trim - It's a Moray

Keep your fingers in tight and you won't have a fright - It's a Moray
When you're moving by feel and then up pops the eel - It's a Moray

When an eel bites your thigh, as you're just swimming by - It's a Moray
When you scream, and you beg, but it still bites your leg - It's a Moray

Watch you don't get a shark, When you search, after dark - for amore
When you're out of your depth, and you run short of breath - that's amore air

When he's fanning his gills, Better head for the hills - It's a Moray
when your light, in the night, gets swallowed out of sight, - It's a Moray

When your horse munches straw, And the bales total four - That's some more hay.
When you're down and it's dark, Over there - that a shark?, No - It's a Moray

When you ace your last test, Like you did all the rest - That's some more "A"s!
When your boat comes home fine, And you tie up her line - That's a moor, eh?

When you've had quite enough, Of this daft rhyming stuff, that's "no more!", eh?





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Page last updated on October 16, 2007
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