Ribbon eel, commonly known as the bernis eel or leaf-nosed moray eel is a species of moray eel. They swim like a dancing ribbon and hence are named as such for their movement.
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Ribbon Eel Scientific Classification
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Size: Males are 26-40 inches (66-102 cm) while females are around 51 inches (130 cm) in length.
Color: Juveniles have a jet black body with a yellow dorsal fin; adult males develop a bright or electric blue body and some patches of yellow around the mouth as the dorsal fin remains unchanged. Females are entirely yellow and have a black anal fin with white outlines on the fin and sometimes having tinges of blue at the back of the body.
They are common throughout the Indo-Pacific region encompassing the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and also in French Polynesia and East Africa.
Ribbon eels stay inside caves, under the coral rubbles or on mud and sands in coastal reefs and lagoons.
- They have a natural propensity of keeping their head out of the cave or mud holes they live in.
- Male ribbon eels are not territorial by nature and two males often stay together for a long time.
- They are not likely to change their place and hence, often continue to live in the same spot for years.
- Juveniles live on their own.
These carnivorous eels feed on small fishes like guppies, fathead minnows, and other crustaceans. They use their clamped nostril to attract the prey and then using their strong jaw they catch them.
Mating and Reproduction
Male and female ribbon eels encounter each other only for mating. They mate when the water is the warmest. Females lay leaf-shaped eggs and die within a month. The eggs keep on floating in the ocean for around 8 weeks before hatching.
All ribbon eels are born male and some of them develop female organs after reaching the adulthood. They change their color from blue to yellow and subsequently lay eggs.
They usually live for around 20 years in the wild, but only a month in captivity.
- Like other moray eels, they keep on opening and closing their mouth for breathing. It helps them circulate the water inside their gills.
- According to some, if two males stay together, one of them will change their gender in order to survive and reproduce.
They are preyed upon by large fishes, barracudas and other types of moray eels.
IUCN Conservation Status
Ribbon eels are listed under the “Least Concerned” category.
- They are the only species of moray eel who are hermaphrodites implying having the ability to change their sex on their own.
- Although many people keep them as pets, they do not thrive well inside an aquarium. Most of the time, they stop eating and eventually die. These intelligent creatures are escape prone.
- Due to their different colorations, juveniles, males and females were previously considered as different species.
- They are shy and do not attack anyone until threatened.
- Ribbon eels have physical similarities with the dragon, the Chinese mythical creature.