Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 703–705 | Cite as

To knot or not? Novel feeding behaviours in moray eels

  • Shanta C. BarleyEmail author
  • Rita S. Mehta
  • Jessica J. Meeuwig
  • Mark G. Meekan
Short Communication


We report observations of a novel feeding behaviour in the moray eel Gymnothorax favagineus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) and a previously undocumented application of “knotting” behaviour in G. fimbriatus (Bennett, 1832). Moray eels were filmed by baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) at the Scott Reefs, a remote group of atoll-like reefs on the edge of the continental shelf in tropical, northwestern Australia. Two behaviours were observed as the moray eels tried to dislodge food from a bait bag: (1) G. favagineus used its tail as a “paddle” to gain leverage on the bag, and (2) G. fimbriatus tied a knot in its tail in order to extract food from the bag. Our observations suggest that morays have an extensive behavioural repertoire for manipulating and extracting large prey items from the interstices of the reefs where they typically hunt.


Gymnothorax Feeding Coral reef Knotting Baited remote underwater video systems BRUVS 



We would like to thank the Australian Institute of Marine Science for the use of its research vessel, the RV Solander, and for the support of its crew. We also acknowledge the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for arranging permits to conduct research at the Scott Reefs. Experimental protocols were approved by the University of Western Australia’s Animal Ethics Committee (RA3/100/1279, RA3/100/1172), and were carried out in accordance with the approved guidelines.

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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Animal Biology and the Oceans InstituteUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Institute of Marine Science, The Oceans InstituteUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Long Marine LabUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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