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Answering the question ‘How many types of eels are there?’ is fairly straightforward today.
There are 20 families, 111 genera, and over 800 species of eels. However, one mystery about all types of eels has puzzled scientists, scholars, and even Sigmund Freud: where do eels come from?
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at the table of contents below, which is full of information.
1. Where Do Eels Come From?
Aristotle himself was perplexed about the origin of the different species of eel. He already knew an eel is a fish with a long and thin body and that there are saltwater and freshwater eel species. After all, eels have been food for humans for thousands of years.
What Aristotle did not know was how they reproduced. No one could find their genital organs, nor could they be seen copulating or laying eggs. Therefore, he concluded the eels’ spontaneous generation from the mud.
Before him, the ancient Egyptians believed that the sun that warmed the Nile made them appear.
There have been all kinds of theories. That they were born from the sea foam, that they rubbed against the rocks. In the English countryside, people thought eels came into life when a horse’s tail hairs fell into the water.
Max Schultze, a German biologist, went so far as to say regarding Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: “all the important questions in my field have been resolved, except that question of the eel.”
As an adolescent Sigmund Freud was dissecting eels in search of gonads and assured that he found them, but nobody paid too much attention to him.
So, time passed until the zoologist and eel breeder Giovanni Grassi finally settled the matter in 1896. He discovered that the eels’ cycle of life has 5 stages: larvae, crystal eels, yellow eels, silver eels, and mature eels. In each of the phases, all types of eels are asexual except in the last one. For this, the silver eel travels hundreds of kilometers in the sea until it reaches the breeding area, and once there, its reproductive organs will develop for the first time, not before. Case solved.
2. Types Of Eels
As we said before, there are over 800 eel species.
It is impossible to tell you about all types of eels in this post, but we can talk about the most important Caribbean eel families. They are:
Muraenidae: this family includes moray eels. Moray eels are known for their large, muscular bodies and sharp teeth. They have no pectoral or ventral fins. Moray eel colors are usually brown or green, although some species may have more colorful patterns or markings. You can find this kind of saltwater eels on coral reefs and in shallow inshore environments.
Almost all types of moray eels are nocturnal and carnivorous animals that prefer to hunt at night. The moray eels open and close their mouth constantly. It does not mean that they are preparing to attack. It is their way of breathing.
Ophichthidae: this type of eel includes species known as “worm eels” or “snake eels,” which have long, slender bodies adapted for life in burrows or crevices and are skilled at slipping through small openings and hiding in tight spaces.
Although they look like snakes, they are not reptiles, they are fish.
There are more than 300 species grouped into more than 50 genera.
Congridae: this family includes species of eels known as “conger eels”. Conger eels live in deeper water than other eels, and although their bodies are very similar, they do have pectoral fins. They are valued as fish for human consumption.
There are about 186 species grouped into 33 genera.
3. Caribbean Sea: What Type of Eels Are There?
The green moray eel (Gymnothorax funebris) is known for its distinctive green color and its large size, which can reach up to about 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length.
The green moray has a long, slender body, generally a bright green color, although it can also be brown or yellowish with green markings.
The spotted moray eel (Gymnothorax moringa) is known for its distinctive black and white spotted pattern. It can reach up to about 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length.
It is generally a brown or yellowish color with black and white spotted markings.
The chain moray eel (Echidna catenata) It’s Pale yellowish to bright yellow chain-like pattern is the main distinctive feature of this type of eel. They also have a dark brown to black heavy body and yellow eyes.
The chain moray can grow up to about 2,5 feet (75 cm) in length
The golden tail moray eel (Gymnothorax miliaris) is a Caribbean eel variety. You can distinguish it from other marine eels because of its shades of brown covered with yellow or gold spots, which size can vary between individuals, and even on rare occasions, are reversed. This means they have yellow under color and brown spots.
Their long, slender body can reach up to about 2 feet (60 cm) in length, and the tip of their tails are yellow. They also have a yellow ring around their pupils.
Pictures of eels in the ocean
The green moray (Gymnothorax funebris)
The spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa)
The chain moray (Echidna catenata)
Golden tail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris)
(Muraena retifera), also known as reticulate moray eel is a species of marine eel found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, including the Caribbean Sea. It is known for its distinctive reticulated (or net-like) pattern on its back. It is typically greenish or brown in color, with small white or yellow spots on its head and body.
The reticulate moray can grow up to about 2 feet (60 cm)
The purplemouth moray eel (Gymnothorax vicinus) is a type of eel famous for its distinctive purple or pinkish-purple mouth, motted body, brilliant yellow-gold eyes, and dark stripe or edge on dorsal fin.
The purplemouth moray can grow up to about 4 feet (120 cm) in length. It is generally a brown or yellowish color with dark brown or black markings on its body
The viper moray eel (Enchelycore nigricans) can grow up to about 2,5 feet (72 cm) in length. It is generally a brown or yellowish color with dark brown or black markings on its body. The distinctive feature of this ocean eel are its arched jaws, with only tips making contact when closed; numerous sharp, pointed teeth visible.
The chestnut moray eel (Enchelycore carychroa) is a species of marine eel known for its distinctive chestnut-brown color, its series of white spots along the edges of jaws, black line markings in the area of gill openings, and a dark ring around the eye.
Pictures of eels in the ocean
The broadband moray eel (Channomuraena vittata)
Reticulate moray eel
The purplemouth moray eel (Gymnothorax vicinus)
The chestnut moray eel (Enchelycore carychroa)
The honeycomb moray eel (Gymnothorax Saxicola) is another Caribbean saltwater eel specie. You can recognize them because of their semicircular black spots, outlined in white along the upper edge of the dorsal fin. They also show numerous pale spots that form a net-like pattern on the rest of the body. Honeycomb moray eels have shades that go from cream to yellow, yellow-brown, or brown.
The stout moray eel (Muraena robusta) has a pale orange bright interior of the mouth, a dusky spot around the gill opening, and large dark spots covering its body and fins. These spots become barely discernible on old, large individuals.
These types of sea eels have very large heads behind short snouts like a pug dog. Stout morays have small eyes near the tip snout, heavy bodies, and nostrils with tubular extensions.
The stout moray can grow up to about 4 feet (120 cm)
The broadband moray eel (Channomuraena vittata) is a species of moray that shows a distinctively dark and pale broadband pattern on its body. Like the previous ocean eel, the broad-banded moray’s head enlarges behind its short snout and has loose, flabby, or wrinkled skin on its head and body. Its shades are gray or olive, often with bluish overtones.
There are enormous because can grow up to about 5 feet (150 cm) in length.
The brown garden eel (Heteroconger halis) is a tiny conger that lives in colonies in sandy bottoms around reefs. Unlike other eels, the brown garden eel is not a good swimmer and tends to stay anchored to the bottom, with only its head and upper body exposed, and moves continuously in a graceful wave-like motion.
A curiosity about this type of conger eel is its size. The brown garden eel is a small species, typically growing to about 12 inches (30 cm) in length maximum. They are generally dark brown-gray.
The brown garden eel feeds on planktonic organisms, and you can find this type of eel in large groups, with individuals arranged in a circular pattern around a common center. In addition, they are so shy that they retreat to the burrows just by feeling the bubbles of the divers.
It is important to note that the brown garden eel is not a dangerous eel type. So don’t be afraid of a conger eel attack 😀
The manytooth conger eel (Conger triporiceps) is one of the eel types you can find in night diving with Dressel Divers in the Caribbean Sea because they prefer to hide in deep or dark recesses during the day and forage at night. Manytooth conger eel live on coral reefs and rocky areas.
Their distinctive features are a dark border on the dorsal, tail, and anal fins. These conger eels’ body is usually bluish-gray or gray and occasionally shades of brown.
According to the conger eel information in the Reef Fish Identification book, you can distinguish this type of conger eel from others because of their jaws. Remarkably, their upper and lower jaws are of equal length. Meanwhile, conger oceanicus has an upper jaw longer than the lower.
Caribbean Conger Eels Pictures
The brown garden eel (Heteroconger halis)
The manytooth conger eel (Conger triporiceps)
The sharptail eel (Myrichthys breviceps) can grow up to about 2 feet (60 cm) in length and has a thin body often grayish, although sometimes, we can find olive to purplish brown specimens. This type of eel has small yellow spots on the head and large, diffuse, pale spots on the body.
The goldspotted eel (Myrophis ocellatus) this marine eel is known for its distinctive gold or yellow spots with diffuse black borders on the body and head.
The goldspotted eel can grow up to about 3 feet (90 cm) in length and has a slender, tan body although sometimes can be yellow to green cast.
The spotted snake eel (Ophichthus rufus) is easy to recognize for its distinctive snake-like body and its broad, dark bar across top of head and dark spots on head and body. This type of eel can grow up to about 4 feet (120 cm) and its color varies from white to gray, cream, or tan. Often have a yellowish cast.
Like other eels, the spotted snake eel is carnivorous and feeds on a variety of small fish and invertebrates and is a nocturnal animal.
The spoon-nose eel (Echiophis intertinctus) has a characteristic short, pointed, V-shaped snout. It shows numerous large, irregular black spots, small spots on the head, and a cream to pale yellowish body. In addition, this type of eel has two to four large, pointed canine teeth on each side of the jaw and one or two long, pointed teeth on the roof of the mouth.
Other Caribbean Sea Eels Pictures
The sharptail eel (Myrichthys breviceps)
The goldspotted eel (Myrophis ocellatus)
The spotted snake eel (Ophichthus rufus)
The spoon-nose eel (Echiophis intertinctus)