Behold one of the oceans most misunderstood creatures, the moray eel. Eels have a reputation for being ferocious, ill tempered, and nasty towards humans which is very misrepresenting. Moray eels are shy, secluded creatures who prefer to spend their days resting and waiting for prey from the safety of their burrow. While they are carnivorous, morays have no interest in attacking humans and are usually quite calm around us; they prefer to eat smaller fish, mollusks, and various crustaceans instead. If there is a case of a moray being aggressive towards a snorkeler it’s more than likely from being startled in its burrow or a case of mistaken identity; these eels rely heavily on their sense of smell to hunt and have very poor eyesight which can make distinguishing between food and fingers difficult for them.
Moray eels are comprised of over 200 different species of different colors and sizes; some species are less than 5in long, others can grow up to 13ft in length. Most eel species lack pectoral and pelvic fins which gives them their streamline, serpentine appearance. Another interesting characteristic of moray eels in their second set of jaws they possess which are located in their throat. These pharyngeal jaws are normally folded back in the eel’s throat until it finds a suitable meal. Once they are ready to attack these pharyngeal jaws will spring forward and help restrain prey. Moray eels are the only animals known to use pharyngeal jaws to actively catch their prey. These marine animals are found in both tropical and temperate seas but are most commonly found on warm water reefs, meaning there are many places where snorkelers have a chance to see these unique creatures.