Tessellate Moray Eel

Thu, 30 Jan 2014

By Tangalooma Island Resort

Tessellate Moray Eel (Gymnothorax favagineus)

The tessellate moray is a large species of moray eel found within the Indo-West Pacific. They grow up to 1.8m in length, but may potentially get as large as 3m. Like most species of moray, they lack pectoral and pelvic fins, giving them a snake like appearance. Tessellate morays are also referred to as honeycomb morays, from the beautiful black and white honeycomb patterning on their body.

Moray eels are nocturnal hunters, and have small eyes and poor vision, so they rely on their sense of smell for hunting. They eat a wide variety of fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Within their throat they actually have a second set of jaws, called pharyngeal jaws, which restrain captured prey and transport it to the back of the throat.

During the day, morays are often found living in a small hole or crevice in a reef, or a burrow in the sand, with just their head poking out. When encountered, they often have their mouth open, showing off their big teeth, and many people think that this is an aggressive display. What they are actually doing is pumping water through their mouth and over their gills, so they can breathe while sitting still.

Morays are quite shy and timid animals, but will attack in defence if provoked or threatened. To avoid being bitten, just give them a good bit of distance and never touch or grab them. Hand feeding morays is also a bad idea. As they have poor eyesight, they have trouble distinguishing fingers from food, so will more than likely bite the hand too. People have lost fingers from being bitten by a moray, so it’s a better idea just to leave them in peace and marvel at their beauty from a safe distance! These photos were taken at the Tangalooma shipwrecks.”

Eco Ranger Pat

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Tangalooma Island Resort

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