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Fish Species of Gran Canaria– Moray eels

Moray eels

Our onsite marine biologist Divemaster TJ, has been busy writing fact-files about the types of aquatic life we see while diving Gran Canaria.

Each week he has documented a different species that Leagues Ahead Diving see while diving in dive sites such as El Cabron, Tufia and Risco Verde. The aim of these fact-files is to give divers a glimpse into the amazing array of marine life that inhabits the waters of Gran Canaria. Here we have documented all the information you need to know about the amazing Moray eel!

The physical characteristics of a Moray eel

There are roughly 200 known species of Moray eel. Some species can be as small as 25 cm compared to the giant Moray eel that can grow to be as long as 4 meters in length!

Although they may look like a snake there body is not covered in scales but rather a mucus that protects it and allows it to move without resistance into narrow places.  

In order to breath, the moray eel needs to constantly open and close its mouth to pump fresh water over its gills. At the bottom of the throat, the Moray eel has a second jaw which draws its prey towards the digestive tract. Now you might be wondering what’s up with these second pair of jaws. Well, remember Ridley Scot’s alien? They have a structure that’s very similar to that of the moray eel called the pharyngeal jaws. When feeding, morays launch these jaws into the prey and transport it into the throat. Showing that even the craziest of science fiction has already been done by nature itself.

Facts about the Moray eel!

  • Moray eels also have an excellent sense of smell due to large nostrils
  • Its mouth can open up to 90 degrees!
  • The biggest species of Moray eel can weight up to 66 pounds
  • During the day they can be found hiding between the rocks in dive sites such as Amadores Bay and El Cabron for they are nocturnal predators meaning they only hunt at night.
  • Some moray eels have blunt teeth for eating hard-shelled pray!
  • The Moray eel has a long dorsal fin which runs from the head to the tail. Most moray eels do not have pectoral and pelvic fins.
  • Some moray eels can change color in order to enhance their camouflage


Are Moray eels dangerous?

Although they may look rather scary at times, they are not a dangerous species. Let’s take a look.

With alien looking heads, sharp teeth and an extra set of jaws, they look like ferocious predators (not to offend any moray eels). However, this is actually far from the truth!

  • Some eels having been known to befriend divers.
  • They are often thought to be solitary creatures however they are often social animals with evidence of them hunting together with other Moray eels and fish.
  • Moray eels are discreet animals and they will only attack humans when they feel threatened. However we advise you not to touch them, they have pretty sharp teeth.

What do Moray eels eat?

The moray eel is a carnivore. They eat:

  • Fish
  • Squid
  • Crabs
  • Mollusks
  • Cuttlefish

They hide in rocks and crevices and use the element of surprise as their hunting technique. They wrap their body around their prey until it becomes small enough to be eaten (yep, definitely keep your fingers away!)

Habitat

The Moray eel is found in warm waters all around the world in tropical and sub-tropical regions. The Moray eel spends most of its time hidden in the caves and rock crevices on the bottom of the sea. We often find Moray eels in one of Gran Canaria’s top dive sites El Cabron. The volcanic rock formations are the perfect place for them to hide.

 

If you want to find a Moray eel, then book a dive today!

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