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Spotted moray eel

Gymnothorax moringa

Description: Spotted moray eels are a pale yellow in color with brownish-purple mottled spots scattered over the entire body. The spotted pattern continues into the mouth of the eel.

Size: Spotted moray eels can reach a length of about six feet (0.3 m) and weigh a maximum of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg).

Behavior: Gymnothorax moringa is a shy species that is often found hiding in rocks due to their poor swimming ability. Having to manually push food down into the throat instead of creating suction through the mouth, an extra pair of jaws are located further in the throat to pull food down. The second set of jaws that are attached to the esophagus will grab the prey and pull it down the throat. At the same time, the first set of jaws release the prey allowing it to be consumed. These nocturnal creatures are usually seen at night or during the twilight hours swimming around the reef in search of food.

Diet: The main diet of this species consists of crustaceans, mollusks, small fish and invertebrates.

Senses: Having very poor eyesight, these eels have an acute sense of smell that is relied on to locate prey and predators.

Communication: Although this species is generally found solitary, communication with others is carried out through touch and chemical stimulation. Chemicals are released into the water that another animal in the same species can detect and read creating a reaction.

Reproduction: Oviparous fertilization takes place at the end of the summer when the water temperature is the warmest. During oviparous spawning, females scatter up to 10,000 eggs in open water where they are fertilized by the males. Eggs develop into larvae that can take up to a year to become large enough to swim down to the reef.

Habitat/range: These eels range throughout the Western Atlantic region where they are often found near the ocean floor with their heads looking out from rocks, grassy areas and coral reefs.

Status: Spotted moray eels have not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.