PEPPERED MORAY • 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.

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Text and photos copyright by John P. Hoover