California Moray Eel

California Moray Eel (Gymnothorax mordax) as seen in our Coastal Waters exhibit.

The morays comprise about 120 species, all living in the tropical and subtropical seas. They usually grow to be about three feet long, with the largest moray (which is also the largest eel) reaching about 10 feet in length. A moray eel’s body is very muscular. Its thick, leathery skin has no scales and is extremely slimy. Morays are brilliantly colored, each species with distinctive markings. Their powerful teeth deliver a nasty bite full of bacteria that can cause infection. Moray eels’ mouth openings extend well behind their eyes, so far that some species can’t close their mouth all the way! Morays stay hidden during the day in crevices in the rocks or coral. At dusk they leave to go feeding, and they spend the night preying on fish and shellfish. This animal is located in our California Kelp Forest exhibit inside the Rocky Shores gallery. This exhibit contrasts the differences in these giant underwater forests between Oregon and our neighbor to the south.

Range & Habitat

As the name suggests, this type of moray eel is very common in the waters off California. This particular species is found from Pt. Conception south to Baja California. They prefer shallow, rocky reefs with plenty of crevices in which to hide and ambush their prey.

Conservation Status