You might have seen these beautiful creatures whilst diving the warmer waters of Southern Africa, in Mozambique, Indonesia or the Red Sea. You might also have thought that there were three different types of ribbon eels – black ones, blue and yellow ones and yellow ones…
But there aren’t….
Discover the truth – and more – about these striking eels, right here:
- The ribbon eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita) or Bernis eel, is a species of moray eel, the only member of the genus Rhinomuraena.
- The ribbon eel can be found in the Indo-Pacific ocean.
- They are usually seen with only their heads protruding from holes in reefs, amongst coral rubble on coastal reef slopes or in sand and mud of lagoons.
- Ribbon eels are carnivores, preying on small fish and other marine creatures. They can attract their prey with their flared nostrils and then clamp down on them with their strong jaws and retreat into their burrows.
- Ribbon eels are known to stay in the same hole for months or even years.
- Juveniles and sub-adults are jet black with a yellow dorsal fin.
- Juveniles are usually found on their own.
- All juveniles are born male.
- The adult males are blue with a yellow dorsal fin.
- It is not unusual to find a number of males in the same area, some even share the same hole or burrow!
- The ribbon eel is the only moray eel that is protandric, which means that they can change from a male to female (protandry) should it become necessary for survival of the species in their area.
- As the adult male reaches full size (approximately 1 metre), it begins to turn into a female, and turns yellow. It will then mate, lay eggs, and die within about a month. Due to this short lifespan, female ribbon eels are a relatively rare sight.
- Females are yellow with a black anal fin with white margins on the fins. So, they are not all different species, they are just differently coloured, according to sex…. which they can change during their life times!
- The ribbon eel grows to an overall length of approximately 1 m (3.3 ft), and has a life span of up to twenty years.
- The major threat to these beautiful eels is the aquarium trade – sadly, when researching for this article, most articles I came across were aquarium keepers articles.