Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Moray Eel

Gymnothorax mordax


Fun Facts

    This eel's favorite prey is the octopus.




Down between the rocks in shallow waters from Point Conception to Baja California resides the California moray eel.  The moray can reach lengths of five feet.  It is usually very timid and will withdraw into a crevice when approached.  It is commonly seen with red rock shrimp with which it shares a symbiotic relationship.  Uniquely adapted to its environment, the moray has a long slender body.  The mouth opens to pull in more water.  Its skin is tough and leathery and is coated with a mucous film, providing protection from the jagged edges of rocky reefs.  The eel's sleek body lacks scales, gill covers, and almost all fins, presenting a smooth surface to back into tight hiding spots.
The moray eel is an effective predator with a well developed sense of smell.  Interestingly, the moray eel's favorite prey, the octopus, has developed a chemical in its jet-black ink that temporarily disables a moray's sense of smell.  The unfortunate octopus that is not quick enough to escape rarely gets a second chance.  The dagger-like teeth of the eel angle backwards, the better to grab and retain its prey.  The teeth are also hinged and lock into position when pushed forward, enabling the eel to firmly grasp even the most slimy fish.  Local moray eels are not dangerous to divers if left alone. 
Moray eels are usually found at the Aquarium in tank numbers 18 and 33.