E is for Eel

In the Caribbean there are approximately 15 species of moray eels. The moray eel has a snake like appearance, characterized by a swaying serpent-head and teeth-filled jaw that continually opens and closes and is most commonly seen with only its head appearing from behind rocks. The most common species to this area is the green moray. This species is characterized by a stocky body that is usually green or brown. As the largest species, the green moray can grow to 8 feet in length. In contrast to the green moray, which has no markings, the spotted moray displays dark spots and markings over its entire body. This species is also more slender and can only grow to 4 feet. True to its name, the purplemouth moray exhibits purple linings around its mouth distinguishing it from other species. Growing only to 3 feet, the purplemouth moray is usually brown with yellowish undertones. Another commonly found species in Belize is the goldentail moray, which is one of the smaller morays, growing to only 2 feet in length. As its name indicates it has a golden-colored tail, but divers usually only see its exposed head. The constant opening and closing of an eel's mouth is for respiration, not for feeding 0r aggression.

The preferred habitats of the moray eel are saltwater areas along the coast, near coral reefs or kelp forests. They hide during the day in coral, rocks and recesses and can be seen in both shallow and deep areas.

At night an eel leaves its sheltered home to hunt and scavenge for small fish, crustaceans, shrimp, and octopus. These animals are excellent predators with their razor sharp teeth, but do not make for very satisfying prey. Sharks will only eat eels if they are in great need of food; when humans consume the poisonous meat of an eel there is often a toxic effect.

Moray reproduction is a relatively quick process with morays laying eggs that hatch within 4-5 months. After the larvae hatch, it takes another 3-4 weeks for the larvae to develop into an eel.

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