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Species Guide » 21. Bony fishes » Muraena helena ca / es

Scientific name: Muraena helena

Linnaeus, 1758

Common Name: Cat: Morena, morena vera, moret, Cast: Morena, Eusk: Itsasugea, Gall: Morea, Ang: Moray eel, Ale: Muräne

Group: 21. Bony fishes

Area type: None in particular

Depth: Up to 100 m

Measures: Up to 100 cm

 How does it look like?

It's a fish with a long shaped body, laterally compressed. It has a big mouth and little eyes. It doesn't have nor pectoral neither abdominal fins. It has a crest of skin which starts where it's head ends. The colors are brownish with yellow and black spots in pretty variable ways, better defined in adult specimens.


Where does it live?

We can find it in depths up to 100 meters. It's the type of moray eel which is most commonly seen at the mediterranean coast. It has also been observed at the eastern atlantical coast. They live usually in stony holes. They are solitary and territorial. During daylight they are rarely seen outside their holes.


How does it feed?

Usually the hunt at night. They are carnivorous and eat fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. A great help are their sharp teeth, which allow them to hold their prey and tear them to pieces.

How do they reproduce?

Reproduction of moray eels takes place in summer. Their lay is pelagical and happens between july and september. The reproduction takes place near the coast, with eggs around 10 milimeters in size. Once they hatch, the young fishes are swept away by the ocean currents. After 2 to 3 years they achieve the adult state. Once the reproduction has finished, they return to deeper waters.


Is a confusion possible?

A confusion is practically impossible. There are, but, two more species of moray eels at the Mediterranean: Enchelycore anatina (Lowe, 1838) and Gymnothorax unicolor (Delaroche, 1809).



· Many divers have a lot of respect from moray eels, fearing they could get bitten by them. In reality, moray ells only attack if they feel threatened or have lost their shyness to humans. Complications after a bite don't appear due to the bite itself, they are mostly induced by an infection caused by the rotten food caught between their teeth.

· Opening their jaws is not a defending attitude, in spite it makes them look terrifical. Basically they open their mouth to pump water constantly through their gills.

· Their meat was highly appreciated during the roman empire, beeing bred in captivity.

· Moray eels have a limitated sense of sight but an extremely sensitive sense of smell. Added to the high sensiveness of their lateral line (which is only present at their head), moray eels are known as great and efficient predators.

· Not having scales, they have a protecting mucus which isolates their naked skin.

· They very often share their homes with the shrimp species Lysmata seticaudata (Risso, 1816).



Superclass: Gnathostomata, Order: Teleostomi, Class: Osteichthyes, Subclass: Acinopterygii, Infraclass: Acrinopteri, Cohort: Elopomorpha, Order: Anguilliformes, Family: Muraenidae

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