Moray Eel Facts - Animals of the Ocean

A moray eel in the Philippines.
A moray eel in the Philippines.

4. Physical Description

Moray eels are animals of the ocean who live in warm waters throughout the world. They are a large eel species and in the cosmopolitan family of eels. They have a serpentine and muscular body. Although not all moray eels have flattened sides, the body is always flattened at the side of the tail. Moray eels also have a long dorsal fin that extends down the entire length of their bodies from the head. The fin fuses with both the caudal tail and the tail fins. Moray eels also have an elongated snout, large eyes and mouths, and many sharp and small teeth. A significant portion of moray eels lack the pelvic and pectoral fins which other fish have. The eels come in various colors such as gray, black, yellow, blue, green, brown, white, and orange. Colors can appear on their bodies in blotches, spots, stripes, or even complex patterns. Moray eels avoid predators with the help of their contrasting pale color on their underside.

3. Diet

Moray eels are carnivorous animals that survive on a diet that only consists of meat. The primary food of these animals include mollusks (squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid), fish, and crustaceans such as crabs and other hard shell invertebrates. They obtain this food through cooperative hunting.

2. Habitat and Range

Moray eels live in both temperate and tropical seas, hence their description as cosmopolitan. There is a small population living in the tropics or the subtropics regions, and those residing in the areas only do so to extend beyond the normal regions. Moray eels live several meters below the water surface where they are mostly concealed in alcoves and crevices. Although there are several species of moray eels living in brackish water, there are very few who live in freshwater. Species living in fresh water include the pink-lipped moray eel and the freshwater moray.

1. Behavior

When looking for food, moray eels use cooperative hunting. They initiate the invitation to hunt by shaking their heads. Moray eels have the ability to enter narrow crevices and flush prey from corners that groupers cannot access. This ability is the rationale for the joining forces that the eels use for hunting. Moray eels are known as being ill-tempered animals and dislike human contact. Instead of fighting, they tend to hide in crevices or flee. The only time they attack people is during self-defence or when there is a mistaken identity. Due to their poor vision, they depend on their acute sense of smell for food from hand feeding by divers.


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