FORAYS WITH MORAYS (5): THE GOLDENTAIL
The Goldentail Moray Eel Gymnothorax miliaris is one of the half-dozen moray species found in Bahamas waters. Adults range in length from about 1.5 to 2.5 feet, and they are creatures of the reefs and rocks of the western Atlantic. As far as I can make out, the goldentails are rather less common than green or spotted morays, the two main eel species of the Bahamas.
Like their moray cousins, goldentails likes to keep themselves to themselves, and lead largely solitary lives. That said, sometimes they have been observed hunting in a group. They live in holes, clefts, and caverns which they leave both during the day and at night to hunt for prey along the reefs, aided by an acute sense of smell. Their diet is mainly of crustaceans, mollusks, and small fishes.
ARE GOLDENTAILS DANGEROUS?
Like many other eels, goldentails secrete a protective mucus that contains a toxin, making them unattractive prey for large predators such a groupers and barracudas. They are also associated with ciguatera poisoning, the active ingredients of which are found in the mucus coating. They are sometimes found in aquariums – the associated sites give a warning of painful bites, because they have backwards-pointing teeth (aka prey traps) – see header image for a clear view of this.
Well I wondered that too, so I checked. The answer seems to be yes, if you real really want to. Comments on forums include:
- “Yes they are edible, I just ate one few weeks ago. Some parts are little bony and skinning it is a bitch. But the meat is very soft and white, delicious. Deep fry works”.
- “After eating our moray eel something changed. The next morning, we were decidedly feeling ill. I won’t get into the details, but let’s just say that “gastrointestinal effects”
- “…symptoms (of ciguatera) include gastronomic effects, and neurological effects which include headaches, numbness, paresthesia, muscle ache, and even hallucinations”.
- “Before you can eat one you have to kill it. They are amazingly hard to kill. I would skip it.”
- “I would rather eat a shoe”
So I’ll be moving straight on to the next course, please. Or just a Kalik would do, thanks.
Credits: Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba (1, 2, 4); iStock / Getty Images (3, 5, 6)