Eels are fascinating creatures that can be found in many bodies of water around the world. In the United States, there are several species of eels that can be encountered, some of which can grow to be quite large.
In this article, we will take a look at the top 5 largest eels you might encounter in U.S. waters. From the slender giant moray to the American eel, these eels are sure to impress with their size and unique characteristics. So, let’s dive in and explore these fascinating creatures!
Top 5 Largest Eels You Might Encounter in U.S. Waters
Slender Giant Moray
The slender giant moray, also known as the Gangetic moray, is the longest member of the family of moray eels. This species of eel is found in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean from the Red Sea and East Africa to the western Pacific. It generally lives in the benthic muddy environments of marine and estuarine areas, including inner bays and rivers.
The slender giant moray has an elongated body and brownish-grey dorsal coloration which pales towards the venter. The longest recorded specimen was caught in 1927, on the Maroochy River in Queensland, measuring 3.94 meters.
The slender giant moray feeds mainly on a variety of small fishes and crustaceans. It is known to extend itself vertically from a burrow with its head held horizontally beneath the surface. This species of eel holds the distinction of being the longest eel in the world.
Green Moray Eel
The green moray eel (Gymnothorax funebris) is a species of moray eel found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Long Island, New York, Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Here are some key features and characteristics of the green moray eel:
– Size: The average length of a green moray eel, from nose to tail, is approximately 5.91 feet (1.8 meters). It is one of the largest species of moray eel, with a maximum recorded length of 8 feet (2.5 meters) and a weight of 65 pounds.
– Coloration: Despite its name, the green moray eel is actually brown. The yellow tint of the mucus that covers its body, in combination with its drab background color, gives the fish its namesake green color.
– Habitat: Green moray eels can be found in various habitats, including rocky shorelines, coral reefs, mangroves, tidal creeks, harbors, areas over sand and mud bottoms, and among seagrass beds. They reside in waters shallower than 100 feet (30 meters).
– Behavior: These eels are solitary and nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and rest during the day. During the daytime, they are sedentary or sit-and-wait predators, while at night, they are more active, hunting through the reef for their meal.
– Feeding: Green moray eels are primarily piscivorous, feeding on fish, but they also consume crabs, shrimp, octopuses, and squid. They rely largely on their sense of smell to locate prey.
– Reproduction: Adult female green moray eels lay eggs at a spawning site. Only some of the eggs get fertilized by males and hatch into larvae, which then transform into mature eels through metamorphosis. After the eggs are fertilized, there is no parental involvement from the moray eels.
Fangtooth Moray Eel
The fangtooth moray eel (Enchelycore anatina) is a species of moray eel found in warmer parts of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, including the Canary Islands, Madeira, and various other islands. Here are some key features and characteristics of the fangtooth moray eel:
– Appearance: The fangtooth moray eel is distinctive for its bright yellow head with elongated jaws, which are filled with a large number of long, semi-transparent fang-like teeth. The body is moderate to dark brown in color with pale spots on the body and fins.
– Habitat: Fangtooth moray eels are found in rocky areas and rubble to depths of at least 10 meters. They stay concealed among rocks, waiting for prey to come along.
– Behavior: These eels are nocturnal and solitary, meaning they are active at night and rest during the day. They are active predators which feed on fish and crustaceans.
– Distribution: The fangtooth moray eel entered the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic and is now found occasionally in the eastern Basin, from Levantine waters and off Turkey, Greece, Croatia, and Sicily.
– Scientific classification:
– Kingdom: Animalia
– Phylum: Chordata
– Class: Actinopterygii
– Order: Anguilliformes
– Family: Muraenidae
– Genus: Enchelycore
– Species: E. anatina
– Binomial name: Enchelycore anatina (R. T. Lowe, 1838)
Overall, the fangtooth moray eel is a fascinating species of moray eel with unique physical features and behaviors.
California Moray Eel
The California moray eel (Gymnothorax mordax) is a unique species of moray eel found in the eastern Pacific, ranging from just north of Santa Barbara to Santa Maria Bay in Baja California. Here are some key features and characteristics of the California moray eel:
– Appearance: The California moray eel has a long, snake-like body with small eyes, prominent jaws, tube nostrils, and a tapered tail. Its body color can range from light to dark brown or green. Unlike most fishes, the moray eel has no pelvic fins.
– Habitat: These eels typically occupy boulder or cobble habitats up to 40 meters in depth. They are commonly found in rocky reefs, caves, and crevices, where they can hide and seek prey.
– Feeding: The California moray eel is thought to be primarily piscivorous, specializing in the kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus). However, they are opportunistic predators and their diet also consists of invertebrate prey such as octopuses, lobsters, other California morays, and red rock shrimp.
– Behavior: California moray eels are relatively common in the Channel Island’s shallow rocky reef habitats, ranging from Point Conception to Baja California. They tend to conceal their entire bodies between rocks while peaking their heads out to stay aware of potential predators and prey. These eels have poor eyesight, which does not significantly contribute to their hunting capabilities.
– Reproduction: The reproductive behavior of the California moray eel is not well-documented. However, like other moray eels, they are believed to be oviparous, with females laying eggs that hatch into larvae.
Overall, the California moray eel is a fascinating and unique species, well-adapted to its rocky reef habitat and displaying interesting feeding and behavioral characteristics.
The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) is a fascinating species of eel that is found along the Atlantic coast of North America, including the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River, and the Hudson River, and as far north as the Saint Lawrence River. Here are some key features and characteristics of the American eel:
– The American eel has a slender, snake-like body that is covered with a mucus layer, which makes the eel appear to be naked and slimy despite the presence of small scales.
– It has a greenish, yellowish-brown or blackish body with a whitish belly.
– The dorsal and anal fins are confluent with the rudimentary caudal fin, and it lacks ventral fins but pectoral fins are present.
– Females are generally larger than males, lighter in color, with smaller eyes and higher fins.
– American eels primarily live in rivers and estuaries, but migrate out to the ocean – the Sargasso Sea, to spawn.
– They hunt predominantly at night, and during the day they hide in mud, sand, or gravel very close to shore, at depths of roughly 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m).
– American eels are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, worms, and insects.
– They have a keen sense of smell and use it to locate prey.
– American eels are catadromous, meaning they live mostly in freshwater but return to the ocean to spawn.
– Females lay eggs in the Sargasso Sea, and the larvae drift with ocean currents for several months before reaching the continental shelf and migrating to freshwater habitats.
Overall, the American eel is a unique and interesting species that plays an important role in the aquatic ecosystems of North America.
1. What is the largest eel found in U.S. waters?
The Slender Giant Moray is the longest eel in the world and can grow up to 13 feet long and 66 lbs in weight.
2. Where can I find the American eel?
The American eel is found along the Atlantic coast of North America, including the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River, and the Hudson River, and as far north as the Saint Lawrence River.
3. What do American eels eat?
American eels are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, worms, and insects.
4. What is the habitat of the California moray eel?
California moray eels typically occupy boulder or cobble habitats up to 40 meters in depth. They are commonly found in rocky reefs, caves, and crevices, where they can hide and seek prey.
5. What is the behavior of the Green Moray Eel?
Green moray eels are solitary and nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and rest during the day. During the daytime, they are sedentary or sit-and-wait predators, while at night, they are more active, hunting through the reef for their meal.
6. What is the scientific name of the American eel?
The scientific name of the American eel is Anguilla rostrata.
7. What is the diet of the Fangtooth Moray Eel?
Fangtooth moray eels are active predators which feed on fish and crustaceans.