I saw this Undulated Moray Eel out in the open recently and, rather than dart for shelter, it remained where it was opening and closing its jaws. While this looks threatening, it’s typical of most eels, the purpose being to push water over its gills, the equivalent of breathing. However, that’s not to say it’s a good idea to dive down and interact with the eel.
My fish book describes the Undulated Moray Eel as “one of the nastiest.” Its narrow jaws hold three rows of teeth, one running down the middle of its mouth. It’s usual prey includes small fish, but this eel was accompanied by a changing group of fish, and neither seemed too bothered about the other.
In Hawaii, this eel is often called the chainlink eel, for obvious reasons.
The Blackstripe Coris is known as Hilu in Hawaii. According to legend, two gods who were brothers appeared as Hilus. One got caught and ended up on a grill, but the other took human form, rescued his brother, and returned him to the ocean. However, the stripes from the grill remained and can still be seen on the Hilu to this day.
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.
I was photographing this school of Convict Tangs when I saw this initial phase Surge Wrasse swimming in the opposite direction. This is not a fish I see too often and it’s one which my fish book describes as ‘one of the most difficult Hawaiian fish to photograph.’ I think this is because of its scarcity and it’s tendency to spend a lot of its time close to shore in shallow, surging water.
While this isn’t the greatest photo, I liked how the very small inhabitants of this rocky area were all looking at me at the same time. At the top is a juvenile wrasse, probably a Saddle Wrasse, though the Bird Wrasse is somewhat similar. The middle two are Bright-eye Damselfishes, and at the bottom is an Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, the giant of the group at about 3 inches long.
I saw this Fivestripe Wrasse just before I got out of the water recently. This one seemed a little redder than the ones I usually see, which have magenta markings, though I don’t see them that often as they’re not especially common.
Belted Wrasses are endemic to Hawaii. This one is a supermale, and while it’s not the greatest photo, I like how the light illuminates its bright colors with the vibrant blue lines particularly emphasized.
Incidentally, I’ve decided to start capitalizing the creatures named in the blog. I think it helps when proper names contain words that can be mistaken for descriptions. Now all I have to do is remember this decision!
Saddle wrasses are one of those fish where the juvenile looks nothing like the adult. The top photo shows an adult supermale. The second one shows the very different look of a juvenile. These differences are one of the challenges of identifying fish. My fish book offers a wide variety of photos, but it can require careful attention to identify what I’ve captured with my camera.