The Moray Eel

Apr 28, 2009
by: Jillian

For my oceanography class, we had to research any species that we wanted to.  I thought it would be interesting to research a type of eel, particularly the Moray Eel.  I didn't know a lot about them and wanted to learn about them and know what they're all about.  For part of the research, we had to learn about the anatomy of the species and their habitat.  We also had to research their niche, historical significance, adaptations and their role in the economy.  I found the anatomy and the habitat the most interesting though.  Here is some of the research paper I had to write about the Moray Eel.

The Moray Eel have a unique anatomy.  They can range from less than an inch long to over six feet long.  They can be a variety of colors from black, brown and several fluorescent colors.  The eel have small eyes and a large nose.  As a result, they rely heavily on smell and hardly on sight.  They have a very long vertebrate that extends almost their full body length.  This is their main body structure.  The rest of their body consists mainly of cartilage.  The most distinct part of the Moray Eel's anatomy is the jaw.  It is very small with very sharp teeth.  These teeth are used for tearing and pulling while a second jaw is located at the back of the throat.  This second set of jaws, the pharyngeal jaws, are used to attack on prey.  When the eel attacks, the pharyngeal jaws shoot out from the back of the throat into the oral cavity.  The jaws grab the prey and pulls it down the throat to the stomach.  The Moray Eel also have a dorsal fin that extends from the back of the head to the caudal fin.  As a form of protection, the Moray Eel are covered in a poisonous mucus over their scaleless skin.  They have very thick skin and a high density of goblet cells.  This type of cell causes the mucus to produce very quickly and cover the skin.  For respiration, the eel have small circular gills.

  The Moray Eel share their habitat with many other marine species.  They are neritic so they live mainly in shallow water.  The eel are very private and usually live alone.  They are nocturnal and hide in small crevices in ship wrecks, reefs, estuaries and rocks.  The eel only come out at night to hunt.  Moray Eel are easily found along coastal waters where its shallow.  While they live at depths of about 50 feet, the eel can also be found at depths of 100 feet.  The ones that live at these depths are much larger.  The Moray Eel almost always tend to live in warm waters so they can live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.  They can also be seen in the Atlantic Ocean near New Jersey all the way down to Brazil.  They can be found in Hawaii and Australia too.  While mostly saltwater creatures, Moray Eel can survive in brackish water and freshwater for a short amount of time.