Taxonomy [Cosmopolitan Eels] [Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Actinopterygii] [Family: Muraenidae]
Morays belong to the Muraenidae family and are recognised as cosmopolitan eels because they are found in many areas throughout the world.
Almost all of the 200 moray eel species are exclusively marine animals with the exception of a few freshwater morays.
They vary tremendously in length and weight from the 11 cm Snyder's moray to the colossal 4 meter Strophidon sathete moray and other giants weighing close to thirty kilograms.
Moray eels display an extended dorsal fin which runs from the head backwards almost to its caudal fin.
Generally they lack fish fins such as pelvic and pectorals which emphasizes their serpentine characteristics.
Most of the genus has small eyes instead relying on acute sense of smell to identify their prey.
Strangely the patterns that adorn their bodies additionally exist inside the moray's mouth. They have wide threatening jaws with salient snout.
Their large intimidating teeth are used for tearing and grasping they prey. Although the vast majority feed on small fishes and occasional shrimps, snowflake and zebra moray eels possess blunt crushing molars suitable for targeting crustaceans.
Most fish use negative pressure to swallow but moray's struggle with this function because of their narrow heads. Instead they launch their second jawline of pharyngeal teeth from the back of the throat into their prey.
The victim is immobilized and then transported inwards for digestion. No other animals use this behavioral capture and restraint. Morays are carnivores broadly feeding on fishes, mollusks such as octopuses, and crustaceans such as shrimps.
Although it is extremely rare, the fact is large moray eels are certainly equipped to cause serious wounds to imprudent divers and documentation of moray attacks do exist. Another reason not to engage with morays is their thick toxic skin.
Some morays secrete poisonous mucus on their skin used for their protection. Moray's biggest predatory threat comes from groupers, sea snakes and barracudas.