Saltar al contenido

Bad reputation

Morena de mar

Ir a la versión en español



Anyone who has ever visited a coral reef has been fortunate enough to encounter a moray eel. The meat of moray eels was so highly valued in ancient times that the Romans built (in 42 BC) breeding grounds where they would raise and fatten them to have them always available. The emperors Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, known for their legendary cruelty, were attributed the habit of feeding moray eels with the flesh of slaves or enemies, thrown alive into the pools that can still be admired in Capri.

It is understandable, then, that history and their usual appearance have given this animal such a bad reputation. However, it is actually a very peaceful fish with timid habits that only defends itself when disturbed or attacked. The moray eel, hiding in its hole, rhythmically opens and closes its mouth, revealing its formidable teeth, always appearing threatening. In reality, it is just ensuring the circulation of water necessary for its respiration through its gills. For sedentary fish, renewing the water flow poses a real problem, which has led to the development of surprising adaptation processes.

A moray eel could not attack a human unless provoked or hunted. It is believed that the moray eels in the Roman pools were starved or conditioned to such behavior. These eels are fish that have lost their pectoral fins and scales. They go hunting at night guided by their highly developed sense of smell. Their most common victims are fish and some invertebrates, but they have a particular fondness for octopuses, which they constantly stalk.

Their sharp teeth are shaped like small knives, with the flat side facing forward. That’s why once they bite, they do not let go unless the prey tears apart. For a long time, it was believed that moray eel bites were venomous, but that is not the case. This belief stems from the fact that their teeth are coated with a layer of mucus that quickly leads to infection in the wounds they cause. They are often very curious animals when divers visit their domains. A diver who knows them well and possesses some patience and bait can easily lure them out of their caves.

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”