The New International Encyclopædia/Moray

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MORAY, mō'rắ. Any of a large group (suborder Calocephali, of order Apodes) of eel-like fishes, especially one of the family Murænidæ and genus Muræna. They are degenerate, aberrant eels, distinguished by their small round gill openings and the absence of pectoral fins. They inhabit warm and especially tropical seas, particularly about coral reefs. They are brightly colored, often of large size, and always voracious and pugnacious. Ten or twelve genera are known, embracing about 120 species, among which the true morays (genus Muræna) are characterized by the presence of two pairs of nasal barbules. The muræna of the Romans, or ‘murry’ (Muræna Belena), abounds in the Mediterranean, and is sometimes of large size, four feet or more in length, golden yellow in front and purple toward the tail, beautifully banded and mottled. Its flesh is white and highly esteemed. It prefers salt water, but can accommodate itself to a fresh-water pond. The ancient Romans kept and fed it in vivaria. The story of Vedius Pollio feeding his murænas with offending slaves is well known. Two species of this genus are found in American waters. The common spotted moray or ‘hamlet,’ the most numerous eel in the West Indies, is Lycodontis moringa, and is yellowish in color, thickly spotted and marbled with dark markings. A larger one (five to six feet) is the greenish-black moray or ‘morena verde’ (Lycodontis funebris), the biggest and most ferocious of the eels of the American tropics (both coasts), and one well known about the Florida reefs. The so-called ‘conger eel’ of California (Lycodontis mordax) is a food fish of some local importance. See Plate of Eels, Congers, and Morays.