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Spotted garden eel

Heteroconger hassi

Description: Spotted garden eels have three large black patches and numerous black spots all over their body, large yellow eyes and an upturned mouth. They are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females look different. The male is much larger and its jaw sticks out further.

Size: They grow to 16 inches (40 cm) in length and have a body diameter of 0.5 inch (1.3 cm).

Behavior: Spotted garden eels burrow into the sandy sea bottom to make their home. They make their body rigid by tightening their muscles and then drive their pointy tail deep into the sand. When they get deep enough, they wiggle their dorsal fin which pushes the sand out. Then they secrete slime from their skin to cement the burrow walls. They will escape predators by diving tail-first into the burrow. They will extend part of their body out of their burrow when there are no signs of danger and to eat. Each eel lives in a single burrow, which they rarely leave. During mating season, the male becomes defensive of the female, protecting her from other males.

Diet: They eat tiny planktonic animals that float by them in the water current.

Senses: Spotted garden eels have good eyesight that enables them to spot their food and predators.

Reproduction: During mating season, males and females reach across and entwine their bodies. They are pelagic spawners, which means, after mating the fertilized eggs are released into the current. The eggs float in the open waters near the surface until they hatch. Once they are large enough, they swim down and make their burrow.

Habitat/range: Spotted garden eels live in the warm parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea in colonies on the sandy flats and slopes that border coral reefs at depths of 23 -150 feet (7- 45 m). They can also be found in areas dense with seagrass; this makes it easy for them to blend in with their surroundings.

Status: Common, not evaluated.