puhi käpa`a; puhi häpala
Gymnothorax pictus (Ahl, 1789)
Uncommon in Hawai`i, this eel usually inhabits
waters less than 30 ft. deep in a variety of habitats including large
tide pools, brackish anchialine ponds, harbors and turbulent rocky shores.
It is an active, bold eel which feeds mostly on crabs and will occasionally
slither out of the sea or even leap up on the rocks to catch them. (Careful
observations reveal that it usually misses.) Specimens from reefs and
rocky shores are typically whitish, densely speckled with small black
spots and marks. Those from anchialine ponds and occasional individuals
living in basalt tide pools are dark, almost black. These dark eels were
thought for many years to be a separate species under the name Gymnothorax
hilonis (after Hilo, Hawai`i, where they were first collected). Recent
investigations show that they differ only in color, which probably developed
to match their dark basalt surroundings. This eel has received 11 different
scientific names over the years, in part because of its variable color
and in part because it occurs over so vast a range, from the Red Sea to
the Eastern Pacific. In many books it is listed as Siderea picta.
. It grows to about 3 1/2 ft. Photo: Lana`i Lookout, O`ahu. 15 ft.