Moray eel – Muraenidae

Moray Eel (animal ambassador)
Slithering in the waters.

It’s less than a week to The Year of the Water Snake on the Lunar Calendar. The Snake, the sixth of twelve Chinese Zodiacs, is associated with sagacity. And the Water element is closely associated with education and research. Together, it promises to be a high year for science and learning.

At S.E.A. Aquarium, we have our own “water snake” at the reef cave. Like snakes, it’s tough not to go “eww” the first time you see them. But is there more than meets the eye with these mysterious “ewws”, err, moray eels?


Moray eels can spend most of the time in burrows and crevices, sticking their heads out, constantly opening and closing their mouths. Nope – they are not yawning. Because of their small gills, they have to continually open and close their mouths to maintain a flow of water, as well as to facilitate respiration.

“I’m a snake, NOT”

Due to the absence of pelvic and pectoral fins, a moray eel’s dorsal fin runs almost the entire length of its body, from its head to its caudal and anal fins. That makes these eels look like sea snakes. What makes them cooler though, is how they have toothed jaws in their throats. Known as pharyngeal jaws, they help to drag prey down straight through the eel’s digestive system. We are shivering in fear already.

Trivia Time: How does a giant moray eel get around those uneven reefs?

Giant moray eels secrete mucus over their smooth skins in large quantities, allowing them to swim faster around reefs without the fear of abrasion.

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