Here’s Friday’s funny fish face – a ribbon eel. The above image was captured in Ambon Harbour, Indonesia.
These little eels are a tropical Pacific photographer’s favourite – but, unlike most eels, they are not so easy to photograph. Although they grow to about 3 feet in length, their heads are quite small. They are also an eel that moves a lot, with the action of their head and upper body much like a flame in a strong breeze. Catching them during this continuous movement with a macro lens can be a bedevilling proposition. And, like many other reef creatures that live in burrows, ribbon eels can and do withdraw into their holes on approach. Patience is required to wait for them to come back out again.
Ribbon eels are protandrous hermaphrodites – a fancy way of saying that all start out as males, and then some sex change to female, apparently as a response to social demand/need for females to breed.
All juvenile ribbon eels are black with a (long) yellow dorsal fin. They are perplexing to photograph (as are all things black, especially on a light background) and I have yet to get a shot of one that it worthy of a share. The females are all yellow, and I’ve only seen a couple – I believe they are not very common – males seem to be much more prolific.
PS – Like other eels, the ribbon eel opens and closes its large mouth to “breathe”. They look a bit ferocious – like they are baring their teeth, ready to bite, but no so much – really, the action is more like big gulps. That being said, many eels are capable of inflicting a very painful bite. They’ve been known to sever fingers…
A few more images of this pretty creature: