Genus: 16 genera
Species: 202 known species
Common Names: Moray Eel
Moray eels are meat-eaters, and they are known to be opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat whatever happens to cross their paths. This includes fish, crabs, shrimp, octopuses and squid.
Many morays spend their time in holes in coral and rocks, with just their heads peeking out. They can use these holes to both ambush prey and hide from predators, though few animals are tough enough to take on moray eels.
Moray eels are oviparous, which means they lay eggs that hatch out of the mother’s body. Females lay many thousands of eggs. After they are laid, they must be fertilized by a male. The eggs will hatch into larvae, which are very small and vulnerable to predators. This is why the mother must lay so many eggs, as only a few eels will likely survive to reach adulthood.
Moray eels are elongated fish with a serpent-like body, and a single fin that runs along most of the upper and lower length of the body, combining the dorsal, caudal (tail) and anal fins into a single seamless structure.
Moray eels have a distinctive feature called a pharyngeal jaw, which is a second inner jaw located further back in their mouth, complete with its own set of teeth. This jaw extends when the eels feeds to help it grip its prey.
Moray eels come in many different sizes and colors. One of the largest is the green moray, which can grow up to 8 feet in length. Like other moray eel species, it has a protective layer of mucus over its skin, rather than the scales of most fish. In the case of the green moray, this yellow mucus covers its brown body and combines to produce the green color that gives the species its common name.
The elongated, snake-like shape of moray eels is the result of evolving additional vertebrae in their body, which over millions of years caused them to develop into serpentine forms.
Moray eels are related to other “true” eels in the order Anguillformes, although unlike many other eel families, they have lost their pelvic and pectoral fins.