BY BRIANA MAGISTRO
SC Staff Writer
Slinking through the waters of this week’s “Animal of the Issue” is the moray eel.
The name “moray eel” encompasses about 200 species of eel in the family Muraenidae.
Although a few species can be found in freshwater, most species are strictly marine eels and can be found in both tropical and moderate waters.
Moray eels are considered fish because they use gills for respiration, or obtaining their oxygen supply.
Eels, however, have a unique way of pushing water over their gills.
Most fish use fins on their sides to push water across their gills, allowing the gills to take in water to make oxygen.
Eels must keep their mouths open and allow the ocean current to wave water over their gills. This is why eels always seem to have a somewhat silly expression on their faces.
Eels also lack fish scales and a dorsal fin.
Their bodies are covered with thick mucus that protects the animal and aids in making a permanent wall in their home in the sand.
Moray eels and sea snakes both move in the same, slithering fashion, but snakes tend to stay near the water’s surface, since they have to breathe air. Sea snakes are also flatter and slenderer.
Moray eels have two sets of jaws!
The first set of teeth lie in the front of the mouth, similar to other fish and vertebrates, while the second is found further down the throat of the animal.
When an eel strikes at prey, the second jaw moves up the throat to capture and take in the meal.
It goes without saying that eels are carnivores! They prey on mostly fish and small squids.
Moray eels come in all colors and sizes, ranging from spotted to plain gray, and from a few inches to a few meters long!
Humans should not fear the eel, as it tends to hide from any large animals.
It is, however, not advised to hand feed or stick your hands near an eel or its burrow.
Eels are born in eggs, like most fish.
Eel eggs and larvae may actually drift through the ocean for several months until they achieve an independent adult form.
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