Eels
(Order Anguilliformes)

These specialized fishes have developed long, snakelike bodies for living in crevices and holes. They have also lost their scales and paired fins.

Conger and Garden Eels
(Family Congridae)

Conger Eels are large and nocturnal. They have very small teeth. They are an exception to their order in that they have pectoral fins. They will stay hidden on the reef all day and swim about openly at night. They prey upon sleeping fishes and crustaceans.

Hawaiian Garden Eel
(Gorgasia hawaiiensis)

These animals have a very different lifestyle than any other members of their family. They live in burrows. They colonize sandy areas in strong current. They are usually found at about 80 feet stretching out of their holes facing into the current to feed off the drifting plankton. If a diver approaches them, they will withdraw in sync into the sand. They are found off the Kona Coast at about 30 to 40 feet in one spot. This is very unusual.

Moustache Conger Eel
(Conger cinereus)

This is eel is also called the White Eel and is usually an ashen color or a plain brownish gray. It shows very dark bands at night when it is out looking for food. There is a fold in the skin above the mouth that looks like a moustache. It is said that they are most often seen at night, although we have only seen them during the day in their lair. Many years ago there was a Conger Eel named Hoover. It would stay in one area for months. Then it would disappear and return again months later. It got very used to divers and actually would even let my wife pet it under the chin. Alas, we have not seen him for many years now.

Moray Eels
(Family Muraenidae)

These are the eels that are easiest to observe. By day they are often found half out of their lairs of coral heads watching the world pass them by. They are also commonly found at night out hunting over the reef.

Most of this family open and close their mouths rhythmically revealing a set of needle-sharp teeth. However, they are only breathing by pumping water through their mouths and over their gills. They are said to have a nasty disposition, but about all documented attacks came about after the eel had been hooked, speared or otherwise disturbed.

They hunt by smell. They have very poor eyesight and have commonly mistaken a diver's finger for a fish. One should always be careful about shaking your finger at an eel and where you place your hand on the reef. With patience you will always be rewarded with good photos. Just remember that even small eels can do a lot of damage. Those teeth are backward pointing, so if bitten try not to pull away (easier said than done). It will soon realize its mistake and release you. But that may end your dive trip.

Dragon Moray
(Enchelycore pardalis)

This eel is also called the Leopard Moray. It has a very stunning appearance. Its body has vivid spots and streaks and jaws so full of teeth that it is unable to close its mouth. Its snout even has long nasal tubes that look like horns. It is an unusual secretive creature. I do not recall ever having seen it completely out of its refuge.

Many Banded Eel
(Echidna polyzona)

This animal lacks the long sharp teeth so common among the Moray family. Its teeth are rounded for grinding and crushing. It preys on crustaceans. It is a dark eel that when young it has alternating light and dark vertical stripes, like our friend in this photo. This banding disappears when it reaches adulthood and only a uniformly dark color remains. This is a shoreline species found at shallow depths. This is the only one I have ever seen.

Snowflake Eel
(Echidna nebulosa)

Tinker calls this eel the Nebulous Moray Eel. It is very easy to identify. It has a white snout and a light brown body with black speckles. It also has several vague rows of irregular dark blotches with white or yellow centers. Hoover calls it a tie-dye effect. Its species name means misty or cloudy. Either translation perfectly describes this animal. Tradition gave this eel a reputation for ferocity and compared the great King Kamehameha with it. But it seems to be one of the gentlest creatures on the reef and has pebble-like teeth rather than the sharp teeth that most of the other morays do.

Stout Moray
(Gymnothorax eurostrus)

Some call this eel the Abbot's Eel. It is difficult to identify this eel, as it is quite variable in color, ranging from a brown with irregular light spots and marks to white with a dew dark spots and marks. Yet it is one of the commonest morays in Hawaii. On inspecting its teeth, it is found that there are 2 or more rows of teeth on each side of the upper jaw below the eye. Any mottled eel with such rows belong to this species. It also has 9 or more teeth on the inner row of the maxillary, other can have as many as 5. This way of identifying this species would not be too practical with a live specimen.

Tiger Moray
(Scuticaria tigrinus)

This is a secretive, nocturnal eel with a light gray or brown body covered with round dark spots of various sizes. It is supposed to be rarely seen by day, but this is the only time I have ever seen one. Its body is cylindrical or round and is not compressed at the tail like other morays. Both the head and the tail are blunt and rounded. The eyes are tiny and the nostrils are pairs of longer anterior and shorter posterior tubes. In spite of its name, it has no stripes.

Undulated Moray
(Gymnothorax undulatus)

The Undulated Moray is possibly the most common Indo-Pacific moray. It has a greenish yellow tinge on the top of its head and the body is variable. It can be dark brown with light speckles and irregular vertical lines or net-like markings. It can be just the opposite - almost white with irregular brown blotches. Its narrow jaws are filled with long sharp teeth, including a row down the center of the mouth. On the night Manta Dive off the Kona Surf Hotel, this moray has learned to use diver lights to find food. You will always find one near your feet while the Mantas are swimming overhead.

Viper Moray
(Enchelynassa canina)

Tinker calls this eel the Canine-toothed Moray. Its body varies from reddish brown to dark gray. Its hooked jaws meet only at the tip, giving it a perpetual snarl look. It has some of the largest, sharpest teeth among the morays. Because of these teeth and jaws, it is unable to close its mouth. Sometimes this nocturnal and fairly uncommon moray is found in pairs. Its species name translates to dog-like, referring to its sharp teeth. It is one of the largest and potentially most dangerous of Hawaii's eels.

Whitemouth Moray
(Gymnothorax meleagris)

The Whitemouth Moray or, as called by Tinker, the Guinea Moray, after its species name meaning Guinea Fowl, is probably the most common eel on the reef. Its body is brown to black, covered with white dots. Its inner mouth is completely bright white. It is often held wide open in threat display. It has a fairly robust body that becomes more and more compressed toward the tail. It has a black gill opening.

Yellowhead Moray
(gymnothorax Rueppelliae)

This moray has a brown body with broad bands of gray. The top of its head is yellow. The very large ones lose most of their dolor. It is a nocturnal creature, but may be seen during the day.

Yellowmargin Moray
(Gymnothorax flavimarginatus)

This is one of the most popular of morays. It is easily tamed and a featured attraction at m any dive sites. Its body is finely mottled in yellow and brown with a dark blotch encircling the gill opening. Its tail is edged in yellow-green. The Yellowmargin Moray is one of Hawaii's largest, most robust morays and one of the boldest.

Zebra Moray
(Gymnothorax zebra)

The Zebra Moray is the easiest moray to identify with its dark reddish brown body and yellow-white stripes. It has blunt, pebble like teeth and it feeds mainly on crabs. Its bite is painful and viselike, so don't think it is harmless just because it lacks sharp teeth. Its body is long and slender and only slightly compressed. Its dorsal and anal fins decrease in length and are found near the tail as small remnants of fins.

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This SCUBA411 Underwater Photography in Hawaii jhfields@meandmephoto.com.
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