OPB To Feature Segment On Wolf Eels

September 18, 2007

Wolf-eels are the topic of a feature segment on the Oregon Public Broadcasting Program

Television producer-reporter Jim Newman will tell the story of Aquarium biologist Evonne Mochon Collura and her wolf-eels in a segment on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Field Guide October 18 at 8:30 pm. Newman, who covered the story on location last year, said the focus is on Mochon Collura and the process of pulling the egg cluster, incubating and observing the hatch of the babies. The segment will air again the following Sunday, October 20 at 6 pm.

“She is very personable and verbal,” said Newman of Mochon Collura. Newman, a veteran news producer with more than twenty-seven years in television production also produces international and national documentaries. Prior to coming to OPB, he worked at WCCO-TV where he headed up his own investigative consumer unit and contributed reports to CBS News and CNN. Oregon Field Guide is a television program about outdoor recreation, ecological issues, natural resources and travel destinations. Oregon Field Guide airs Thursday evenings at 8:30pm on the television stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting and repeats on Sunday evenings at 6:30pm. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30pm Thursdays, and at 6:30pm Sundays.

The cluster of wolf-eel eggs hatched at the Oregon Coast Aquarium last December, the offspring of a pair of adults that live in the Coastal Waters gallery. The hatch, a first for wolf-eels at the Aquarium, is a rare event because timing is extremely tricky when it comes to pulling wolf-eel eggs from the parents, who guard and care for the eggs constantly. “There is a small window of opportunity,” said aquarist and marine biologist Evonne Mochon Collura. “You need to let the parents care for the eggs to a certain point, but if you wait too long, the emerging larvae disappear due to predation.”

Mochon Collura noticed a change in behavior of the wolf-eels and suspected the presence of eggs when the female stopped leaving her den to feed. Removing the eggs can be tricky; wolf-eels have very sharp teeth and a powerful bite suited to crushing prey. These wolf-eels are quite tame and will take food from her hand, but she always keeps her eye on their teeth. After removing the egg cluster Mochon Collura said the female looked for the eggs briefly, but quickly returned to normal behavior with her mate. Wolf-eels tend to pair with one mate. “But sometimes, there’s a soap opera and two females will compete for one male,” according to Mochon Collura.

Wolf-eels are not a wolf, not a true eel and they’re not really dangerous unless provoked. In spite of their ferocious appearance, wolf-eels are very shy and docile. At the Oregon Coast Aquarium you can often see their heads poking out of a hole in the reef of the Aquarium displays. Wolf-eels are very involved parents. The male and female take turns coiling and oxygenating the eggs, while the other guards.

The hatchlings resembled tiny tadpoles at first but are now looking more and more like small wolf-eels. They will reach 12 – 18 inches in length by the first year; will begin pairing at about four years old and laying eggs by age seven. Wolf-eels live about 20 years and reach lengths of 6 – 8 feet long at maturity. Some of the baby wolf-eels will eventually be shipped to other Aquariums and some will stay here at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.