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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Chain Moray Eel Echidna catenata

The chain moray eel is one of very few marine eels that can survive for some time out of water, and it will forage over wet rocks for up to 30 minutes at a time during low tide. As long as it remains wet, it can absorb some oxygen through its skin. The chain moray eel is easily recognized by its short, blunt snout and chainlike yellow markings. Some of its teeth are broad and molarlike and help it to cope with heavily armored prey such as crabs. It can swallow small crabs whole, but breaks up bigger ones first by twisting, tugging, and thrashing around. The chain moray eel is a member of a large family of moray eels (Muraenidae) that live on reefs throughout the tropics. Most species of moray eels are nocturnal, but the chain moray eel is usually active during the day.

The Chain Moray Eel is a Versatile Hunter

Most species of moray eels spend the day in holes in a reef with just their heads sticking out, emerging at dusk to hunt. They rely on their excellent sense of smell to find fish resting between corals and rocks. Unusually, the chain moray eel also hunts over rocky shores and reefs at low tide during the day. It uses its sharp eyesight to search for fish and crustaceans in crevices and holes and, when it has located its prey, it strikes, rather like a snake. Other moray eels will sometimes strike at passing prey from their holes during the day.

Chain Moray Eelzoom image
  • Order Anguilliformes
  • Length Up to 5 ft (1.7 m)
  • Weight Not recorded
  • Depth 0–40 ft (0–12 m)
  • Distribution Tropical reefs of western and central Atlantic
Chain Moray Eel habitat mapzoom image