Tag Archives: Eels

Whitemouth Moray Eel

A Whitemouth Moray Eel in the waters off the Big Island Hawaii

I’d just got in the water recently when I saw this Whitemouth Moray Eel hunting with some Bluefin Trevallies. The trevallies carried on, but the eel was torn between joining them and retreating into the crack it was emerging from. In the end it did neither and I got a few photos before carrying on with my swim.

Dwarf Moray Eel hunting

A dwarf moray eel swimming in the waters off Hawaii

I was snorkeling recently when I saw this Dwarf Moray Eel hunting with a small Saddle Wrasse. It promptly disappeared under a rock and I didn’t expect to see it again. But I was in no hurry, so moved away a bit and kept watch. After a while the eel poked its head out, hesitated, then swam out.

I snapped these two photos, the first as it emerged and the second as it disappeared again. I like how, in the top photo, the eel oozes out of a hole no bigger around than it is, which is less than an inch! These small eels typically are less than a foot long.

A dwarf moray eel swimming in the waters off Hawaii

One or two Whitemouth Moray Eels

Two Whitemouth Moray Eels in the waters off Hawaii
Two Whitemouth Moray Eels in the waters off Hawaii

The top photo looks like a single eel, but a closer look shows some color variation. It’s really two Whitemouth Moray Eels. I noticed the first one, with its head on the right of the photo, and took a few photos. Then a second, smaller Whitemouth swam into the picture. It was nearer to me, but then retreated into the crack angling at 45 degrees to the first eel.

It popped out of the other end of the crack, and the two eels looked at each other for a moment. The smaller eel then headed toward the other one, only to be greeted by a nip on the head. Chastened, it retreated back into its crack and that’s the way I left them.

Predators

Blue Goatfishes and other fish hunt fro prey in the waters off Hawaii

It’s not unusual to see this kind of gang activity while snorkeling, and what they’re doing is hunting. Their prey is small fish that take sanctuary in coral heads and among the rocks.

This bunch of hunters is dominated by Blue Goatfishes, easily identified by their blue bodies and yellow saddle at the base of the tail. There’s also a Bluefin Trevally and Pacific Trumpetfish toward the bottom of the photo and, near the top of the photo, a Peacock Grouper with a Whitemouth Moray Eel curling below it.

Eels are popular members of these hunting parties because they can wriggle into the smallest spaces, flushing out prey. The goatfishes perform similar work using long, white barbels below the chin to probe small spaces in the hopes of disturbing a meal. Other fish tag along hoping to be beneficiaries of this work by being the first to snag any victims that get flushed out.

Undulated Moray Eel

A undulated eel in Hawaii
A undulated eel in Hawaii

The appearance of Undulated Moray Eels can be quite varied. The yellow-green head is a common feature, and this black and white patterning is probably its most attractive look. They are, however, considered one of the nastier eels in the area and not to be messed with.

Whitemouth moray eel looking up

One thing I can rely on when I’m snorkeling is that when I’m looking down into the water there’s a very good chance something will be looking up at me. Most creatures in the water are constantly scanning for predators, or prey.

In this case, this whitemouth moray eel was in a typical position, wedged into a crack, and keeping a watchful eye on my movements.

Posted in response to Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ See more responses here.