Creature Feature: White Mouth Moray Eel

white mouth morray john cooney

Photography by John Cooney

This month, our lineup of creature features will be served up island-style, focusing on amazing creatures from the beautiful habitats of Hawaii! Today we will be looking at the White Mouth Moray Eel, Gymnothorax meleagris.  The White Mouth is one of over 80 species of moray eels (also called Puhi by native Hawaiians). This particular moray is the most commonly spotted in the Hawaiian reefs. You can recognize them by their brown-orangeish color and small white dots over the body. As you can imagine, it is called the White Mouth Moray because the inside of it’s mouth is white, though it also has a distinctive white tip to its tail.

Like most eels, the White Mouth Moray likes to hide in crevices of the reef. Despite having a body of as much as 3.5 feet long, they can cram themselves into surprisingly tiny places. Morays are homebodies, never venturing too far out of their crevices.  They’ll lurk with only their heads out in the reef, mouths gently opening and closing so that they can breath and smell. They have sharp teeth that allow them to feed on small crustaceans and fish. For the most part, these eels are shy and prefer to hide in their crevices when threatened, but they will bite in self defense if provoked.

Next time you find yourself diving or snorkeling along the Hawaiian reefs try to catch a glimpse of a White Mouth Moray, but remember good stewardship as well – be kind, keep your distance, and do not startle this eel.


Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography by John Cooney


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