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Knot-eels, Moray Eels, Morays, Reef Eels

Compiler and date details

3 October 2018 - Gerald R. Allen, John E. McCosker, John J. Pogonoski, Matthew M. Lockett, Norbert J. Cross, Dianne J. Bray & Douglass F. Hoese

Gerald R. Allen, John E. McCosker, Norbert J. Cross, Dianne J. Bray & Douglass F. Hoese


Worldwide, the Muraenidae comprise approximately 16 genera, and over 200 described species (Nelson et al. 2016), the majority of which are found in the Indo-Pacific region. The family is represented in Australia by 12 genera and 83 species. Specimens from the Northern Territory identified as Gymnothorax pictus may represent records of Diaphenchelys dalmatian Hibino, Satapoomin & Kimura 2017, a genus not currently recorded from Australia.

Muraenids are generally marine, inshore reef inhabitants, but some species occur to at least 200 metres depth. The characteristic elongate body shape, lack of scales and paired fins, and heavy mucous coat are adaptive for dwelling in holes and crevices. Many species are equipped with sharp fang-like teeth that are used for seizing fish and invertebrate prey. If provoked by humans, the larger species can inflict serious bites. The flesh of some of the larger morays has been implicated in cases of human fish poisoning (ciguatera). Moray eels are opportunistic feeders; many species are most active at night. Some species may reach nearly 3 m in total length, but most are one-third this size or less.

Many new records and nomenclatural changes have appeared since the review of Australian muraenids by Munro (1957). Important regional works that provide coverage of many Australian species include those of Weber & de Beaufort (1916) and Smith (1962). Australian and New Zealand species have been revised more recently by Böhlke & McCosker (2001). Böhlke et al. (1999) provided a key to species from the tropical western Pacific and Böhlke & Smith (2002) compiled a list of Indo-Pacific types of the family. The group is unusual in that many of the species are widespread reaching the eastern Pacific (Robertson et al. 2004). Smith (2012) provided a checklist of the moray eels of the world. Allen & Erdmann (2012) treated species found in the East Indies. Tang & Fielitz (2013) provided a molecular phylogeny of moray eels.


General References

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Böhlke, E.B., McCosker, J.E. & Böhlke, J.E. 1989. Family Muraenidae. pp. 104-206 in Böhlke, E.B. (ed.). Orders Anguilliformes and Saccopharyngiformes. Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Memoir. Sears Foundation of Marine Research 1(9): 1-655

Böhlke, E.B., McCosker, J.E. & Smith, D.G. 1999. Family Muraenidae. pp. 1643-1657 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068.

Böhlke, E.B. & McCosker, J.E. 2001. The moray eels of Australia and New Zealand, with the description of two new species (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae). Records of the Australian Museum 53: 71-102 figs 1-10

Böhlke, E.B. & Smith, D.G. 2002. Type catalogue of Indo-Pacific Muraenidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 152: 89-172

McCosker, J.E. & Smith, D.G. 1997. Two new Indo-Pacific morays of the genus Uropterygius (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae). Bulletin of Marine Science 60(3): 1005-1014

Munro, I.S.R. 1957. Handbook of Australian fishes. No. 6. Fisheries Newsletter. Australia 15(12): 15-18 figs 171-198

Nelson, J.S., Grande, T.C. & Wilson, M.V.H. 2016. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons 5, 752 pp.

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp.

Robertson, D.R., Grove, J.S. & McCosker, J.E. 2004. Tropical transpacific shore fishes. Pacific Science 24(4): 507-565

Smith, D.G. 2012. A checklist of the moray eels of the world (Teleostei: Anguilliformes: Muraenidae). Zootaxa 3474: 1-64

Smith, J.L.B. 1962. The moray eels of the western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 23: 421-444 figs 1-6 pls 53-62

Tang, K.L. & Fielitz, C. 2013. Phylogeny of moray eels (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae), with a revised classification of true eels (Teleostei: Elopomorpha: Anguilliformes). Mitochondrial DNA 24(1): 55-66

Weber, M. & de Beaufort, L.F. 1916. The Fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Ostariophysi: II. Cyprinoidea, Apodes, Synbranchi. Leiden : Brill Vol. 3 455 pp. 214 figs.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
05-Mar-2019 ELOPOMORPHA 02-Oct-2018 MODIFIED Dr Doug Hoese (AM)
23-Sep-2011 ANGUILLIFORMES 23-Sep-2011 MOVED Dr Dianne Bray
12-Feb-2010 (import)