[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Gymnothorax castaneus
Panamic green moray, Morena verde

photo of eel swimming, from Ocean Oasis, © 2000 CinemaCorp of the Californias photo of eels in rock crevice, from Ocean Oasis, © 2000 CinemaCorp of the Californias

Most morays are not aggressive toward humans, but it is unwise for divers to thrust their arms blindly into crevices and holes. Morays are capable of inflicting painful wounds, sometimes causing serious permanent injuries.

Family: MURAENIDAE (Moray eels)


The moray's body is compressed, very elongated, and muscular. The large mouth has caniniform fanglike teeth. The posterior nostrils lack tubes, and the snout is usually sharply pointed. Moray eels lack pectoral fins, but the dorsal and anal fin are well developed, though largely hidden by tissue. Its color is variable: green, greenish brown, or brown and occasionally with small white spots. They grow to over 1.2 m (4 feet) in length.

Range and Habitat

The moray's range extends from the Gulf of California to Malpelo island in Colombia. They hide under boulders, and are found poking their heads out of crevices and holes during the day. They forage at night and may be seen any place on the reef or over sand or mud bottoms.

Natural History

Moray eels usually feed at night, they rely on a very well-developed sense of smell, rather than vision, to catch their prey. Normal prey includes fishes and a variety of invertebrates such as crabs, shrimps and octopuses. Sometimes when they hunt during the day, opportunistic fish such as small cabrillas follow them and feed on their scraps.

Text by Patricia Beller
Photograph from Ocean Oasis © 2000 CinemaCorp of the Californias

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