Mediterranean moray eel Muraena helena

Mediterranean moray eel

  Cold and temperate sea fish

Mediterranean moray eel Muraena helena

Identity card

Mediterranean moray eel

Scientific name:
Muraena helena
Year of description:
Linnaeus, 1758
IUCN Status:
Least Concern

Non evaluated


Throughout the Mediterranean basin, as well as on the eastern Atlantic coast.


From the surface down to a depth of around 100 metres.


Up to 1.50 m


Octopus, squid and cuttlefish, fish and crustaceans.


38 years

Mediterranean moray eel Muraena helena

It can capture its prey with its sharp teeth and ingest it.

To swallow prey that is too big, it has developed an original technique: it twists its body to form a knot near its tail and then slides it towards its head. When the prey is correctly positioned and held, it throws its head back and thus can rip it apart.

Did you know?

As they live at night and in the dark, we have little knowledge of the conditions in which moray eels breed, a process that takes place from July to September, when they lay eggs about 5 mm in diameter. The larvae float and drift with the currents for about a year, after which the moray eel descends to the depths and becomes an active predator.

The moray eel is often seen in the company of the Mediterranean cleaner shrimp Lysmata seticaudata.

Where is the animal to be found?

It is found throughout the Mediterranean basin. It can be found from the surface down to a depth of around 100 metres.

The moray eel is a territorial species that lives isolated in crevices or anfractuosities. It is relatively shy and will only attack when it feels threatened.

It is a nocturnal predator and a poor swimmer, and usually hunts by hiding in wait.

It is found throughout the Mediterranean basin. It can be found from the surface down to a depth of around 100 metres.

The moray eel is particularly fond of shipwrecks, which offer many hiding places.

How can it be recognised? 

The moray eel has a long, serpentine body that can grow up to 1.5 m, which is robust and slightly compressed laterally, especially in its posterior section. The head is short and has a rounded profile.

It has a large mouth with powerful jaws and tube-shaped nostrils.

Its highly sensitive nostrils give it a highly developed sense of smell, which helps it to locate its prey.

It has no pectoral fins or continuous dorsal fin. Its scale-free skin is purplish brown with white and yellow mottled markings.

What is distinctive about it? 

The moray eel's bite can be dangerous because its teeth carry germs. The risks of infection are quite significant. Divers know that they should not put their hand into crevasses when diving to avoid being bitten.

The moray eel is a nocturnal predator. It is a poor swimmer and almost blind, usually lying in wait in its lair for prey to pass by. The Mediterranean cleaner shrimp feeds on parasites that are found on the skin, in the respiratory orifices and in the mouth cavity of the moray eel, thus providing it with a thorough cleaning.

Where can I find it at Nausicaá?

The Mankind and Shores exhibition

Mediterranean moray eel Muraena helena

Cold and temperate sea fish

The Ocean Mag

Browse through our Ocean Mag

In the spotlight

Nausicaá forum on the deep sea

Faced with the threat of deep-sea mining, we must join forces to protect the deep seabed!

Faune abyssale ifremer


Life in the depths: how do creatures in the abyss adapt to extreme living conditions?

What are the physical characteristics that allow them to survive in the depths of the ocean?


Reproduction and the preservation of biodiversity

At Nausicaá, reproduction is a necessary step for the preservation of biodiversity.