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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Species Fact Profile: Green Moray Eel (Gymnothorax funebris)

Green Moray Eel
Gymnothorax funebris (Ranzani, 1840)

Range: Western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea
Habitat: Coral Reefs, Mangroves, Seagrass Beds, Intertidal Areas
Diet: Zooplankton (Larvae); Fish, Crustaceans, and Cephalopods (Adults)
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Little known about reproduction: believed to mate at spawning sites further out to sea than usual range of eel.  Fertilization is external, with millions of eggs released, no parental care given
Lifespan: 85 Years (Maximum, Captivity)
Conservation Status: No Listings

  • Largest specimen on record 2.5 meters long and with a mass of 29 kilograms; more typical length is 1.8 meters with a mass of 13.3 kilograms
  • Long, laterally compressed body devoid of scales; dark brown or grey skin is covered with yellow mucous, serving as protection from parasites
  • Sex is possibly determined by environmental conditions - more stressful environments result in the formation of more females than males
  • Adults are largely sedentary and rarely move outside of feeding; they are active hunters (primarily at night), searching for prey in crevices and caves
  • If prey is too large to be swallowed whole, the eel will wrap around its prey in order to obtain leverage and then wrench off pieces of the fish
  • Mutualistic relationship with marine "cleaner species" such as gobies, wrasses, and shrimp, which will eat microbes and parasites off of the eel's skin
  • Occasionally eaten by humans, large adult moray eels are potentially toxic - toxins in their prey species become concentrated in their bodies, making their own flesh dangerous to eat
  • Has a fearsome reputation among many divers (often as a result of startling encounters while exploring coral crevices, displaying its characteristic gape threat display), but rarely poses a threat to humans and only bites if provoked
  • Vagrants have been found as far north as Nova Scotia, presumably carried by Gulf Stream

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