Hungry Moray Eel closely investigates camera

WildCreaturesPublished: November 20, 2017Updated: November 21, 2017139 plays$0.28 earned
Published: November 20, 2017Updated: November 21, 2017

Moray Eels are apex predators on the reef. Only a shark or large Barracuda would pose a threat to a full grown eel. They reach a length of nearly ten feet and and can weigh up to 66 pounds. Their formidable teeth and powerful jaws make them a poor choice for other reef creatures looking for a meal.

This Moray Eel is resting in a coral crevice with his head poking out. They often lie in wait, hoping for a fish to venture past. Mostly, hunting involves swimming among coral and looking in crevices for a fish to ambush. Their eyesight is very poor but their sense of smell is incredibly acute.

When a GoPro camera on an extension pole was slowly moved close to this Moray, he responded with curiosity and he crept forward and opened his mouth as if to take an exploratory bite. What prevents a large beast like this one from actually biting the camera is that it does not give off the smell of food that would make him interested in chomping on it. It is also not an example of the eel’s defensive response or a sign of agitation as he would strike much more rapidly and then retreat into his lair. This eel was undoubtedly exploring his options and trying to see if was something to nibble on.

The Moray gives us a close up look at the inside of his mouth in the process and we can see a line of teeth on his lower jaw and one in the middle of his mouth, on the roof. Eels have a second set of teeth, a pharyngeal jaw that is concealed within the throat. This jaw lunges forward to capture and restrain prey, as well as to pull it into the throat of the eel to assist in swallowing. Although the pharyngeal jaw cannot be seen in this video, we are given a rare look into the throat of one of the most fearsome carnivores of the deep.

Interestingly, this Moray Eel has a friend hanging out with him, a Nassau Grouper, who seems to have no fear of the eel’s teeth. Perhaps it is his impressive size that makes him unsuitable prey, or perhaps it is that the groupers and eels have an incredibly unique hunting agreement. Groupers are actually able to invite eels to assist in hunting. They shake their heads back and forth in a manner that tells the eel that they want to look for food. The eel will flush out fish as it slithers among the coral. If it misses, the grouper gets a chance and both benefit as there will always be scraps and pieces for the other.

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    BirchLeafPhoto · 1 year ago

    My daughter used to work in an aquarium and they had a moray like this - very curious!