Hardtail Moray, Anarchias galapagensis
The Hardtail Moray, Anarchias galapagensis, whose common Spanish name is morena cola dura, is a member of the Moray and Snake Moray Eel or Muraenidae Family, known collectively as morenas in Mexico. There are only nine global members of the genus Anarchias, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Hardtail Moray has a slender elongated compressed body that tapers gradually to a pointed with an overall “earthworm like” appearance. They are brown in color with star-shaped tan blotches and small spots covering the head and body. The tip of the tail is white. They lack the traditional black spot covering the gill openings present in most Morays. The head has a short broad conical snout with eyes slightly before the middle of the equal sized jaws that are equipped with two rows of conical teeth at the front and one row at the sides. The front nostril is tubular pointing forward; the rear nostril is a simple hole above the eye that is immediately adjacent to a large pore. The gill slit is small and about mid-flank. The anal and dorsal fins are continuous with the caudal fin but barely visible as skin covered ridges near the tip of the tail. They do not have pectoral fins. The tails have hard tips and are approximately 56% of total length being longer than the head and trunk.
The Hardtail Moray is an uncommon inhabitant of sandy habitat that are adjacent to rocky reefs in the subtidal zone to depths of 200 feet. They are one of the smallest Morays in the world reaching a maximum length of 17 cm (6.7 inches). They are noctural preditors with poor eye sight that utilize a keen sense of smell that consume small fish and invertebrates including crabs, octopus, and shrimp. Reproduction is viviparous with eggs and sperm broadcast into the water generating pelagic eggs and larvae.
In Mexican waters the Hardtail Morays have a limited distribution being found from the central Gulf to Cabo San Lucas along the central and southeast coasts of Baja and from Mazatlán south to Guatemala along the west coast of the mainland.
The Hardtail Moray is not easily confused with any other species due to its small stature, narrow body depth, and general “earthworm like” appearance.
The Hardtail Morays are of limited interest being exceedingly rare and seldom seen by humans.
Hardtail Moray, Anarchias galapagensis. Fish caught in coastal waters of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, August 2008. Length: 12.5 cm (4.9 inches). Provided in a pristine condition via regurgitation by a Flag Cabrilla taken out of 100-foot water. Identification courtesy of Dr. Richard Rosenblatt, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.