The Green Moray - Gymnothorax funebris
The green moray, Gymnothorax funebris, is a moray eel of the family Muraenidae, found in the western Atlantic from New Jersey, Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil, at depths down to 40 m. Its length is up to 2.5 m.
Geographical Distribution The green moray occurs in the western Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Bermuda and the northern Gulf of Mexico, south to Brazil, including Ascensión Island (1). Common throughout the warm waters of the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, and Florida Keys, the species has been recorded at least once as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada. The latter record likely representing a stray carried north by the Gulfstream (1).
Habitat Associated with rocky shorelines, coral reefs, and mangroves, the green moray is a benthic, solitary fish (2). The species is also known from tidal creeks, harbors, areas over sand and mud bottoms, and among seagrass beds (1). This moray resides in waters shallower than 100 feet (4). It hides during the day in rocky crevices, extending its head from the opening, and forages at night.
Biology Distinctive Features The elongate body is laterally compressed or "flattened" and this fish possesses a muscular appearance (3). The scaleless, thick skin is covered by a layer of yellowish mucus that protects the animal from parasites and diseases. It is this mucus that lends the moray the green tint for which it is named (3). The green moray lacks pelvic and pectoral fins. The dorsal and anal fins are long and are continuous with the short caudal fin.
Coloration It is the yellow tint of the mucus that covers the body of this eel, in combination with the dark ground color, which produces the green appearance for which the species is commonly named. Dark or light green or even somewhat brown, body color is uniform from head to tail (1). There are no markings on the body or fins. Juveniles are uniformly dark and lack the presence of a white chin, a character noted for the young of at least two other species of the genus Gymnothorax as well as other morays (3).
Size, Age, and Growth The green moray is one of the largest morays. Maximum reported size for the species is 8ft (2.5m) and 65 pounds (29 kg)(4). Average maximum size is likely closer to 6ft (1.8m) and 30 pounds (13.3 kg)(4).
Food Habits The green moray is nocturnal predator of fishes, crabs, cephalopods and shrimps that relies largely on its sense of smell to locate prey (2). Green morays are adept at working their way in and out of the many tight crevices and holes of coral reefs where fishes and other organisms hide. Green morays most often hunt at night.
a. For more information on the three main cicuatoxins found in moray eels see: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/004101019190209A.
b. For more information on the interspecific feeding relationships between groupers and moray eels see: http://www.springerlink.com/content/j2l26274v328527v/