Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes),  Anguilliformes (Eels and morays),  Muraenidae (Moray eels)

Rhinomuraena quaesita

DISTRIBUTION: Indo-Pacific from East Africa to the Tuamota Archipelago (French Polynesia).

HABITAT: Lagoons and associated reefs at depths up to 57 m.

APPEARANCE: Long thin body and high dorsal fins. Has three fleshy tentacles on the tip of its lower jaw, a single fleshy pointed projection at the tip of its snout, and tubular anterior nostrils ending in gaudy, fanlike expansions. Juveniles are black with a yellow dorsal fin, males are mostly blue, and females are mostly yellow. Length up to 130 cm (51 in).

DIET: Mostly small fishes, some invertebrates.

REPRODUCTION and DEVELOPMENT: External fertilization nonguarder.  R. quaesita is a protandrous hermaphrodite, i.e., functioning males reverse sex to become females.  It is the only moray that undergoes abrupt changes in coloration and sex.  Protandry is diagnosed based on coloration, but not confirmed.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY May have lifespan up to 20 years.

REMARKS: The ribbon eel buries itself in sand or hides in rocks or reefs, sometimes with head protruding, lying in wait or emerging to hunt for small fish. Like all morays, it rests with mouth open, displaying sharp teeth that appear ready for use. Actually, ribbon eels are among the least aggressive of morays, the gaping mouth simply aiding breathing by allowing oxygenated water to enter and pass over the gills.