Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 16 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MURAENA, the name of an eel common in the Mediterranean, and highly esteemed by the ancient Romans; it was afterwards Muraena pitta, from the Indo-Pacific. applied to the whole genus of fishes to which the Mediterranean species belongs, and which is abundantly represented in tropical and sub-tropical seas, especially in rocky parts or on coral reefs. Some ninety species are known. In the majority a long fin runs from the head along the back, round the tail to the vent, but all are destitute of pectoral and ventral fins. The skin is scaleless and smooth, in many species ornamented with varied and bright colours, so that these fishes are frequently mistaken for snakes. The mouth is wide, the jaws strong and armed with formidable, generally sharply pointed, teeth, which enable the Muraena not only to seize its prey (which chiefly consists of other fishes) but also to inflict serious, and sometimes dangerous, wounds on its enemies. It attacks persons who approach its places of concealment in shallow water, and is feared by fishermen. Some of the tropical Muraenas exceed a length of to ft., but most of the species, among them the Mediterranean species, attain to only half that length. The latter, the " morena " of the Italians and the Muraena helena of ichthyologists, was considered by the ancient Romans to be one of the greatest delicacies, and was kept in large ponds and aquaria. It is not confined to the coasts of southern Europe, but is spread over the Indian Ocean, and is not uncommon on the coasts of Australia. Its body is generally of a rich brown, marked with large yellowish spots, each of which contains smaller brown spots.
End of Article: MURAENA

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