Monday, September 03, 2007

That's A Moray Monday: Belize Style

I can pretty much throw a rock and hit the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef from where I am right now in Belize City, Belize. So I thought I'd show a little favoritism with a Western Caribbean moray native.

Caribbean Spotted Moray
Gymnothorax moringa
This medium sized (about a meter in length) eel has a long snake-like body, and is white or pale yellow in color with small overlapping dark-brown to purplish-black spots. A benthic and solitary species, the Caribbean Spotted Moray is abundant on coral reefs. It is less common in turbid bays or harbors. It prefers shallow water (up to 200 m in depth) with a rocky or grassy bottom. Like most morays, Spotted morays are solitary animals and are usually seen in holes or crevices with only the head protruding. Somewhat atypical of morays, they are active during the day, feeding at the sea bottom on crustaceans and other fish.

The spotted moray is found in the Western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina and Bermuda to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean basin. It is also found around Mid- and Eastern Atlantic islands as far south as St Helena.

There is a minor fishery for Spotted moray eels, apparently primarily in Brazil. This is surprising since ciguatoxins are often present in morays. The species has also gained attention as an aquarium fish, though they grow too large for this to be practical in most circumstances.

Interestingly, quite a few web references make note that the bite from this species can be dangerous to humans. I have to wonder what in particular the writers of these remarks are referring to specifically, since I would probably say this is true of all morays. Most morays I know of have sharp, back-curved teeth that are well adapted for holding on to slippery, moving prey. Moray bites hurt, and the bite tends to heal slowly or be prone to nasty infections from the copious amounts of bacteria and other contaminants present in the eel's mouth. If the Spotted moray has some other unique factor involved in its bite, I could not find further info with my limited web resources. If anyone knows more, feel free to chime in.

1 comment:

Kevin Z said...

"I can pretty much throw a rock and hit the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef from where I am right now in Belize City, Belize."

You better be careful! From your previous posts it sounds like that rock might come back to hit you soon!

I love Moray Mondays btw.