Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fish Geek's Pick-O-The-Week: Zebra Moray Eel!

Zebra Moray Face, by Scott Rettig

Zebra Moray Eel

Hawaiian: Puhi
Latin: Gymnomuraena zebra

Kohala Divers' crew of Fish-Geeks usually spots this eel by the distinctive thicker white stripes on a dark brown background of the neck/body/tail of the eel. Sometimes swimming in the open, the zebra moray will then curl in the reef with it's head hidden, making the striped body stand out, and a game of hunt-for-the-eel-head afoot.
The Zebra Moray is the only member of its genus Gymnomuraena. The Hawaiian name "Puhi" is the name for all moray eels, with the zebra having an unknown Hawaiian distinction. Eels were a very popular food for the Hawaiians, and prized by the ali'i. Of the many ways to hunt an eel, perhaps the most notable was  "eel pinching", wherein a fisherman would tempt eels out of the reef by dangling a tasty bit of squid, and then snatch the exposed eels up with a free fist.

Scott says, "Unlike most morays, the zebra moray has molars used to crush up invertebrates; shrimp, crabs, etc..." 
John P. Hoover says, "Although lacking sharp teeth, they are not harmless; a Honolulu aquarist bitten on the finger describes the experience 'painful, like a vice.' "

Kama'aina? Nope.
Size: To 5 feet (usually smaller).
Depth: Variable. In our common experience we see them shallow to 60'... but then that is where we usually dive.
White List? Although the Zebra Moray is not on the whitelist of fish legal to take in West Hawaii, its relative Global commonality does make it a popular aquarium fish. 

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