Mystic Moray

After more than six years in diving I have adored the depths and the amazing life in it, with increasing passion I wanted to know closely the interesting creatures that contain this mysterious world. My encounters with them were all in silence, even with restraint and patience, for them bigger species (like divers) are threatening and must be avoided. There are few of them that are generous and stood their ground even with my presence, face to face encounters are rare moments which I always treasure.

Moray Eels (Muraenidae) are interesting and just one of my favorite friends, I always stop at a distance for a quick observation – round eyes, naughty grin with razor teeth, elongated body like snake, brown or deep blue countenance – what a beauty! It could just easily glide away if feeling threatened, it is always my joy to glance at it without moving, and watch in awe how it gawk at me as if wondering what kind of fish I am! Glorious, but sadly I can’t touch my moray but just gaze in wonder.

I gathered few facts about this specie, few things that I must always remember when I dive expecting encounter with them:

1. Moray eels are found in shallow tropical ocean waters throughout the world, and live in crevices around reefs and rocks.
2. While moray eels look like snakes, they are actually fish which lack scales.
3. Morays are covered by a slimy mucus that allows them to quickly slither around reefs without getting all scratched up.
4. Morays have poor eyesight, and are known to accidentally bite the fingers off of divers who feed them (so don’t).
5. Cleaner shrimp and cleaner wrasses (tiny fish) coexist with morays and eat the parasites that live on them.
6. Moray eels are one of the few species of fish that can swim backwards.
7. Morays look menacing and scary, but they are relatively docile fish that will only attack if threatened (for example by a diver reaching into a moray’s hiding spot).
8. Morays are predators that typically hunt at night using their sense of smell; their prey include fish, crustaceans, octopus and squid.
9. Morays can cause ciguatera food poisoning if eaten by humans. The symptoms include serious gastrointestinal and neurological conditions
10. To breathe, moray eels must continually open and close their mouths to move water over their gills. Scuba divers often incorrectly interpret this behavior as threatening

It is comforting to note that morays are never aggressive but just like me and my cat, they are docile and undoubtedly lovable.  And I always considered it a compliment if a moray would stop and stare back at me as if saying – we are friends!

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