Green Moray Eel | Oceana

Ocean Fishes

Green Moray Eel

Gymnothorax funebris

Moray Eel

Distribution

Western Atlantic Ocean, commonly found in the Bahamas and Florida Keys

Ecosystem/Habitat

Rocky tidal areas, coral reefs, mangroves or sandy bottoms

Feeding Habits

Carnivore

Taxonomy

Order Anguilliformes (eels), Family: Muraenidae (moray eels)

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The green moray eel can attribute its color to a mixture of a full layer of yellow mucus covering its long, slender body and the eel’s natural brownish grey skin color. This mucus protects the eel from parasites and bacteria. 

The green moray eel has one long dorsal fin that extends down the entire length of its body and connects to a second fin, the caudal fin. Their faces have two nostrils, made visible by two small openings. On their upper jaw, moray eels have two full rows of teeth, while on the bottom there is just a single row of teeth. The average length of green moray eels, from nose to tail, measures roughly 5.91 feet.

Adult female green moray eels lay eggs at a spawning site. Only some of the eggs get fertilized by males and hatch into larva, which transform into mature eels through metamorphosis. After eggs are fertilized, there is no parental involvement from moray eels. The green moray eel lives in solitude and is nocturnal, meaning active at night and asleep during the day. The most activity a moray eel engages in is during feeding or spawning.

Moray eels hunt for fish in small crevices along coral reefs and shorelines. If the fish appears too large to consume whole, the eel can wrap itself around the fish in a knot to disable it and then consumes it after tearing it into smaller pieces. Moray eels are not picky eaters. They are opportunistic predators that prey on any fish that is small enough for them to consume, as well as other crustaceans and cephalopods. The moray eel serves its role as a top predator in its marine ecosystem, positioning itself to have few predators due to its large size and reputation to viciously attack potential threats.

Green moray eels can often be seen by scuba divers along coral reefs. Although feared by humans for their vicious bite, moray eels rarely attack unless first provoked. While green moray eels are not currently threatened, their coral reef habitat is under pressure—primarily from global warming. Since the 80’s our oceans have absorbed 90% of the excess heat in the atmosphere and up to 30% of carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry. This mixture of heat and carbon emissions leads to a domino effect of negative consequences starting with increased acidity in our oceans and leading to mass bleaching of coral reefs. If the planet heats up by 2°C, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs, including places where moray eels live, will die. Oceana is attacking climate change by protecting carbon-sequestering habitats, supporting sustainable fisheries, and campaigning against expanded offshore drilling.

Though these eels are considered not threatened with extinction, they are still highly impacted by changes in the environment, and very susceptible to the damaging effects of overfishing and ocean pollution. Join Oceana to learn how you can help restore abundant oceans and address the effects of climate change. 

 

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Fun Facts About Moray Eels

1. Although they appear green, moray eels have brownish or grey skin that mixes with a layer of yellow mucus—causing a green hue to appear.
2. The strongest of the five senses on a moray eel is its ability to smell. They use this strong sense of smell primarily to find food or a spawning site.
3. Moray eels prefer a life of solitude.
4. Moray eels are not the best parents, in fact they have no parental involvement with their offspring.
5. ​Moray eels readily eat almost any species of fish, so long as they can easily tear and consume it.

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References:

Animal Diversity

IUCN RedList

 

 

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