Skip to main content

Diurnal observations on the behavioral ecology ofGymnothorax moringa (Cuvier) andMuraena miliaris (Kaup) on a Caribbean coral reef


Activities of muraenids, primarilyGymnothorax moringa andMuraena miliaris, were observed on a Caribbean coral reef with a view to further understanding their role in the reef ecosystem. Other muraenid species included in the total of 198 sightings wereEchidna catenata, Enchelycore nigricans, and an unidentified brown moray. The five species were unequally distributed among three basic habitats (sand, coral head, reef rock) available on the reef. Nine particular holes accounted for 52.5% of the total sightings, although hundreds of other seemingly appropriate sites were available. The eels (exceptM. miliaris) were transient with respect to given holes and particular sections of the reef. While someG. moringa were sighted in the same holes for several consecutive days,M. miliaris individuals remained in the same coral heads throughout the 6-week study period. Muraenids observed in this study showed high tolerances for and were tolerated by other fishes (including other morays) and invertebrates on the reef. They appeared to be opportunistic, roving predators and were not strictly nocturnal. Distinct behavioral interactions and displays between muraenids and reef fish were observed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Adey WH (1978) Coral reef morphogenesis: a multidimensional model. Science 202:831–837

    Google Scholar 

  • Bardach JE, Lowenthal LA (1961) Touch in fishes with special reference to the Moray Eel (Gymnothorax moringa & Gymnothorax vicinus). Copeia 1:42–45

    Google Scholar 

  • Bardach JE, Winn HE (1959) Differential food selection by Moray eels and a possible role of the mucous envelope of Parrot fishes in reduction of predation. Ecology 40:296–298

    Google Scholar 

  • Bardach JE, Winn HE, Menzel DW (1959) The role of the senses in the feeding of the nocturnal reef predators (Gymnothorax moringa andGymnothorax vicinus). Copeia 3:570–574

    Google Scholar 

  • Chave EH, Randall HA (1971) Feeding behavior of the Moray eel (Gymnothorax pictus). Copeia 3:570–574

    Google Scholar 

  • Dubin RE (in press) Behavioural intractions between Caribbean reef fish and cels (Muraenidae and Ophichthidae) Copeia

  • Fishelson L, Popper D, Avidor A (1974) Biosociology and ecology of Pomacentrid fishes around Sinai Peninsula. J Fish Biol 6:119–133

    Google Scholar 

  • Hiatt RW, Strasburg DW (1960) Ecological relationships of fish fauna on coral reefs of the Marshall Islands. Ecol Monogr 30:65–127

    Google Scholar 

  • Hobson ES (1974) Feeding relationships of teleostean fishes on coral reefs in Kona, Hawaii. Fish Bull US 72:915–1031

    Google Scholar 

  • Hobson ES (1968) Predatory behavior of some shore fishes in the Gulf of California. US Fish Wild Serv, Res Rep 73:1–92

    Google Scholar 

  • Karplus I (1978) A Feeding association between the grouper (Epinephelus fasciatus) and the Moray eel(Gymnothorax grisseus). Copeia 1:164

    Google Scholar 

  • Montgomery WL (1975) Interspecific associations of sea basses (Serranidae) in the Gulf of California. Copeia 4:785–787

    Google Scholar 

  • Myrberg AA Jr (1972) Ethology of the bicolor damselfish (Eupomacentrus partitus): a comparative analysis of laboratory and field behavior. Anim Behav Monogr 5:197–283

    Google Scholar 

  • Randall John E (1968) Caribbean reef fishes. T. F. H. Publications, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  • Reese ES (1975) A comparative field study of social behavior and related ecology of reef fish (Chaetodontidae). Tierpsychol 37:37–61

    Google Scholar 

  • Sale PF (1977) Maintenance of high diversity in coral reef fish communities. Am Nat 3:337–359

    Google Scholar 

  • von Mackensen K, P.O. Box 1094, Marathon, Florida

  • Zeiller WG, Miami Seaquarium, Miami, Florida

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Abrams, R.W., Abrams, M.D. & Schein, M.W. Diurnal observations on the behavioral ecology ofGymnothorax moringa (Cuvier) andMuraena miliaris (Kaup) on a Caribbean coral reef. Coral Reefs 1, 185–192 (1983).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Coral Reef
  • Sedimentology
  • Reef Fish
  • High Tolerance
  • Behavioral Ecology