Moray eel bit off a bit more than he could possibly chew

There are some meals that one simply shouldn’t even start, as this moray eel found out. 

The eel and its ill-advised attempt at dinner, a pufferfish, washed up on Seven Mile Beach, near Plantation Village, on last Monday, 16 April. 

Esther Henderson, who took this photo and submitted it to photo of the week competition, said she had grabbed her camera after hearing a rumour going around Plantation Village about the eel and its spiky meal. 

“I believe the moray eel was hungry and decided that a tasty pufferfish would suit just fine. To defend itself, the pufferfish puffed itself up in the hope of becoming indigestible.  

“I think the moray eel choked on it but was unwilling, or unable, to disgorge the fish. The eel floated to the surface and then drifted onto the beach near Plantation Village,” she said. 

Neither the eel nor the pufferfish survived the encounter. 

A pufferfish can inflate into a round, spiky ball as a defence mechanism. Pufferfish have highly elastic stomachs and an ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water and even air to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size.  

They contain tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that makes them foul tasting and often lethal 
when ingested. 


Also read our very popular story from 2007:

Small fish takes big bite

Small Fish eats Big Fish

moray eel eating puffer fish

The moray’s lunch was spiked. – PHOTO: ESTHER HENDERSON


  1. That photo reminds me of another moray in Eilat, Israel that tried to eat a stone fish just off Kisuski Beach in 1996 and suffered a similar fate.

    The eel’s tail was stuck in rocks so it hung there with the stone fish wedged in it’s mouth and for about three days we were able to take our intro dives to see it as part of their tour.

    My understanding is that morays have very poor eyesight and think these two incidents indicate why playing with them or trying to hand feed them is dumb.

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