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207. Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita)


A Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita) emerges from its hiding place to take a peek at the underwater videographer.

Ribbon Eels are moray eels belonging to the genus Rhinomuraena within the moray eel family (Muraenidae). These long, fine, and slender fish inhabit lagoons and reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. In some areas from the eastern African coast to French Polynesia, they are frequently spotted by scuba divers. The often beautifully coloured moray is a well-appreciated subject among underwater photographers and videographers alike.

The Ribbon Eel changes its sex during its lifetime, starting as male and changing into female. It is the only member of the moray eel family that does so. There are no records of other moray eel species that are protandric hermaphrodites (first male and later female).

When the eel is juvenile (male), it exhibits uniformly black coloration; subadults develop a yellow hue on their long dorsal fin. When the male reaches adulthood, the black body coloration changes into a beautiful bright blue with a black anal fin and a fan-like yellow dorsal fin. At a certain moment in life, the Ribbon Eel transforms into a female, and the entire eel changes colour once more. Adult females are evenly yellow-coloured. It was believed that the differently coloured individuals were different species within the same genus. The Ribbon Eel in this short underwater videoclip is an adult male.

The Ribbon Eel is a solitary fish species that lives in a burrow, where it spends most of its time during the daytime. At night, it is most active, going on the hunt for small fish. It is not uncommon for this beautiful, elegant moray eel species to feed on fish that accidentally come a little too close to the eel’s burrow.

Ribbon Eels are at their most beautiful when they swim. They move their entire bodies in a ribbon-like undulating movement, hence their name. They are also sometimes referred to as Leaf-nosed Moray Eels due to their leaf-like nostrils. Moray eels are known to have poor eyesight and rely more often on their ability to detect prey through smell. The big leaf-like nostrils are perfectly adapted to detect prey underwater.

Ribbon Eels can grow up to 120 cm/47 inches or so in length. When the eel is at its longest, it is more than likely a yellow specimen and thus female.


Filming an animal underwater that emerges from its den or burrow to disappear less than 20 seconds later is a perfect shot for any underwater videographer or filmmaker. However, like so often in filmmaking, it is not always the reflection of reality. In videography, it is quite easy to make the viewer believe something that is not real. Very often, the images are manipulated in such a subtle way that the viewer does not realise that the video has been compromised like in this underwater videoclip.

Let me explain the hack; the entire scene in this videoclip is only half as long. When I started to film, the Ribbon Eel was already peeking out of its burrow. At a certain moment, it disappears into its den, and I used those last 10 seconds of the recording to create the entire clip. Those 10 last seconds were doubled while editing; the first part was played in reverse, followed by the original footage. Because of the eel’s random movements, it is nearly impossible to notice that the fist part of the video is the same one as the second half only played in reverse.

Finally, I added an Indian snake charmer's tune. This traditional Indian folk art involves fakirs making a snake dance to a melody played by a flute-like instrument called a "pungi." The sudden appearance of the Ribbon Eel, with its long and slender body dancing straight up, demanded this kind of melody.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

More about this subject:

To find out more about the Ribbon Eel as a photographic subject please visit our vlog post 5 or click the following link https://www.beyondscuba.com/post/leaf-nosed-moray-eel

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