Fish of the Week – Moray Eel

Before be kick of this one I want everyone to be clear on one point. Eels ARE fish! Crazy i know and when I first heard I didn’t believe it and now I’ve seen the error of my ways, It’s only fair that i educate you so you don’t make the same faux par.

Eels are elongated fish and range from 5cm (2inches) to 4 meters (13ft)! However i want to concentrate on everyone favourite eel, the moray. Chances have it that most divers have seen one of these beady, unblinking beauties eyeing you up as they dangle out of their rocky lair. What does he get up to in there?

There are over 200 species of Moray which are all carnivorous eating fish mainly but also dine on squid and crustaceans given the chance. So don’t go wiggling your fingers in too many moray pits, if you put your hand in you might not get it back! Hunting mostly at night they use their sense of smell to prevail rather than their relatively poor eye sight.

Interestingly eels have developed another set of jaws (pharyngeal jaws) which work in a remarkable way. If you’ve ever seen the ‘Alien’ movie you’ll know that the aliens tongue also has a little set of teeth on it and grabs its victim. Eels have similar set of jaws which extend from its throat to grab prey! Its the only species known to have developed this adaptation.

Another titillating morsel of information I came across stated that the Romans used to breed morays and would nurture them by feeding them live slaves…not sure if this entirely true but after hearing other Roman exploits, I wouldn’t put it past them.

So what’s with all the snapping and posturing then as we fin past innocently? Morays have small gills, therefore to the facilitate respiration they need to constantly flush water over them.

Morays are also toxic but do not create the toxin themselves. It’s instead and accumulation of Ciguatoxin from organisms from lower down the food chain (morays being near, if not the top). It has been postulated that this is the cause of death of King Henry I of England who popped his cloggs not soon after eating an eel.

So now you know that morays are creatures with space jaws, toxic and will snap your finger of due to poor eye sight. Still fascinating creatures. I’ll update this one as I find out more myself as at present, morays are my new favourite animals!



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