Marine Life Spotlight: 6 Amazing Facts About Moray Eels

Marine life spotlight

One of the fascinating marine creatures that you can encounter during your dive is the moray eel. These carnivorous animals like to feed on fish, squid, cuttlefish, octopus, crabs, and mollusks. Get to know more about this serpent-like aquatic animal through these amazing facts.

1. 200 known species

There are about 200 known species worldwide which can be split into two main categories: true morays and snake morays. True moray eels are more common which includes 166 known species. The giant moray eel is the largest species which can weigh up to 30 kg and measure around 2 meters. These humongous species are widespread in the Indo-Pacific region.

Some of the species that you can encounter when you go scuba diving UAE are the Spotted or Speckled Moray eel and Honeycomb Moray eel. 

2. Intimidating gaping mouth

If it’s your first time to encounter a moray eel while diving, you might be intimidated by how it opens and closes its mouth. You might think that it’s a threatening behavior but it’s actually the animal’s way of breathing. Most fish species have what you call bony gill covers located at both sides of the body which open and close to expel water. This action enables them to breathe. Since the moray eel does not have this kind of gill cover, it relies on its mouth to pump water through the gills.

3. Alien-like jaws 

Yes, you read it right … two jaws! No wonder this animal reminds sci-fi lovers of the 1979 film series “Alien” starring Sigourney Weaver. The moray eel has an extraordinary pair of hidden chompers that it uses to attack its prey. Within its esophagus are two concealed pharyngeal jaws that help the moray eel seize its victim. 

Unlike most fish that use suction to consume their food, the moray goes through two steps. First, it ensnares its prey with its outer jaw. Second, it fires forward its other jaw to bite its victim and pull it into the throat. The moray’s teeth are pointing backward which makes it almost impossible for its victim to escape once captured. 

Although morays are efficient predators, they are hunted by larger marine animals such as barracudas and sharks. 

4. Poor eyesight but an incredible sense of smell

This predator has surprisingly poor eyesight despite their large eyes. If it cannot see well, how can it capture its prey? The answer to that is a keen sense of smell. What it lacks visually, it compensates through its olfactory system when hunting. Equipped with two small elongated appendages on its nose, the moray eel can easily smell its prey.

5. Efficient nocturnal marine creature

If you want to see a moray eel, a night dive is a perfect opportunity to see one. Most moray eels are more active after the sun goes down. They can be spotted swimming and hunting in the cover of darkness. Join our Night Dive when going scuba diving Fujairah for a chance to see this marvelous marine animal. 

6. Clever creatures 

Did you know that morays can cooperate with other fish while hunting? These creatures have been observed working together with groupers to flush out their prey. In this video clip, you’ll see the grouper sending head-shaking signals to the moray eel to reveal the hiding place of the prey. The moray understands the signal and checks out the cracks and crevices. Incredible teamwork!