Creepy Critter #4: Green Moray Eel
What’s green, slippery, slithery, looks slightly undead, and lurks under rocks in the ocean? Nope, not Frankenstein – we’re talking about the Green Moray Eel.
This creepy critter can be found anywhere from the western Atlantic Ocean, to Bermuda, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Brazil. Their sinuous, snake-like appearance ups their “ick” factor, but not as much as the fact that they’re actually covered in mucus does! It’s hard to believe, but these species – so known for their vibrant lime green color – is actually brown. The yellow tint of mucus that its body is coated in is yellow, thereby giving this spooky, serpentine creature its signature hue.
TSA Aquarist Rafael Calderon added another creepy fact to this animal’s repertoire of weirdness. “It’s kind of cool, even alien-like, but the Green Moray actually has two pairs of jaws, a primary and a pharyngeal, meaning it’s located deeper inside the eel’s throat,” he explains. “The first set of jaws grabs and holds the prey and the second sucks in the food and eats it whole.” That prey is normally fish, squid, shrimp, crab, and octopus.
These incredibly successful predators can allegedly grow to be up to eight feet in length, and they come equipped with some seriously scary teeth. Curved and sharp, you can see them when the eels open and close their mouths every so often, something they do to breathe. Although this behavior may appear threatening, the eel is actually taking in water to breathe. The water passes over its gills and exits through vent-like openings at the back of the creature’s head.
“They don’t really play well with others, either,” says Calderon, “Green Morays are very territorial, and if they don’t like you in their space, or if you’re getting too close, they’ll let you know it.”
Another creepy fact via Calderon is that Green Morays love tight, enclosed spaces. No claustrophobia for these scale-less swimmers.
The Texas State Aquarium is home to three Green Moray eels, Russell, Scooter, and Houdini – come get a load of these alien-like fish this Saturday at Green Halloween!