• Keerthana Dinesh

The Wolf-eel... is not an eel!

The wolf-eel is misnamed for its long, snake-like appearance but it is actually a fish. The wolf-eel or Anarrhichthys ocellatus, is part of the wolffish family. They can sometimes become tame and be used to humans since they live in areas that are frequented by divers and underwater photographers.

Adult wolf-eel


Habitat and Appearance:


The wolf-eel live in the Pacific oceans's costal regions. The adults usually dwell near rocky regions, in caves and crevices that provide shelter. They can live in place as deep as 740 ft below the surface. Young wolf-eels on the other hand spend most of their time in the open sea until they mature and find a mate.


Adult wolf-eels have a blueish gray color and large heads and specific spots on their backs. The males have big jaws and a bulging forehead. The adults are known to get as long as 8 feet in length and weigh at about 40 pounds. They also have large, long front teeth that makes them look a little scary but wolf-eel have only been know to be aggressive with other wolf-eels. The young wolf-eels on the other hand are a bright orange red in color with purple highlights and much smaller in size.


A young wolf-eel


Diet:


The wolf-eels eat many small sea creatures, for example crabs, mussels, clams, abalone and sea urchins. They have powerful jaws that can crack right through the shells of crustaceans. They also eat small sea animals like sand dollars and small fish. The wolf-eel also has a large appetite.


Fun Facts:


The wolf-eels mate for life! Once they have matured, they find a mate when they are about 4 years old. They spend sometime finding a suitable dwelling and around their 7th year where they spend the rest of their lives living except when they are chased away by a bigger wolf-eel. They often keep their heads peeking out of their dens to look out for predators. The female wolf-eel can lay up to 10,000 eggs and both parents spend time watching over the eggs, while the other goes out to find food. They sometimes even warm the eggs by wrapping themselves around them. They rub against the eggs to circulate the water around them and provide oxygen for the eggs. Wolf-eel eggs take about 4 months to hatch. Once they hatch, the wolf-eels immediately leave home and float out to sea using the ocean currents.


A wolf-eel mate pair


Another fun fact is that the wolf-eel is thought to have medicinal value in old cultures. In Alaskan native cultures, only the shaman (native healers) was allowed to eat this fish.


Status:


The wolf-eel conservation status is least concern right not but they do have a risk on being captured for aquariums. Wolf-eels are also in danger on water pollution, fishing gear, and ocean trash like any other fish.


References:




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