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Zebra Moray Eel

(Gymnomuraena zebra)

This weeks fish of the week is a beautiful and docile marine fish that can make an excellent addition to the larger marine aquarium. The Zebra Moray Eel, named for its striking black and white pattern, can attain lengths of 150cm (although in captivity 60-75cm is more common). They are one of the more peaceful species of moray eels, preferring a diet of shrimp and other crustaceans over fish meat. Their teeth and jaw design reflect their specialised diet. They have rounded, rather than needle sharp teeth. This ‘blunt’ style of tooth allows a better crushing mechanism for getting through the tough exoskeletons of crabs and urchins.

 

All species of moray eels possess a unique feeding adaptation which resembles the 1979 film Alien. The pharyngeal jaws are a second set of teeth located near the throat. Some cichlids and all moray eels have been shown to possess this morphological oddity. How moray eels use this second jaw is where it gets ‘alien’. When a moray eel hunts, it catches the prey first with their frontal set of jaws (oral jaw). Once captured, the pharyngeal jaws propel forward, grasping the prey, and transport the food into the throat. The similarity to the iconic ‘Xenomorph’ physiology from the Alien film series is uncanny. Unbelievably, the artist responsible for the creation of the Xenomorph, H. R. Giger, created his monster long before research into moray eel jaws was published! Alien jaws aside, the Zebra Moray Eel makes a good companion with most fish species. They are considered moderately reef-safe, with the exception of shrimps and crabs. Ensure rock work is secure as they will spend much of their time concealed within it. Unlike other moray eels, they are also fairly diurnal (awake during the day) and so will often be visible throughout the day.

Tagged in: Fish of the Week Archive - Marine

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