Mystery Creature reveal – the Wolf Eel

Did you guess this week’s Mystery Creature? It was the Wolf Eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) a bit of a misnomer really as it is not an eel at all, but a fish.


photo credit: guppiecat via photopin cc
photo credit: guppiecat via photopin cc


Here are ten other interesting facts about the wolf eel…


1. They belong to the wolffish family but are the only species within the family with these long eel like bodies; their appearance is quite like a normal fish at the head end but then their bodies can extend to eight feet (nearly two and a half metres) long; 

2. Wolf eels are found in the North pacific ocean – covering a range from Japan to Southern California

3. They like to live in deep crevices or caves and often compete with octopus for such prized dwellings

4. They are quiet, solitary creatures, but can be quite aggressive when it comes to their territory; they will fight other wolf eels, octopus and, it has been suggested that they will even ward off sharks

5. They have a mouth full of powerful teeth… three rows on the top and two on the bottom; these teeth are helpful for cracking open the shells of the crabs, sea urchins and other shellfish on which they like to dine.

6. These animals do not pose much of a threat to humans in the water, divers usually report them as gentle and curious

Wolf Eels usually mate for life
Wolf Eels usually mate for life
photo credit: Eva Funderburgh via photopin cc

7. Wolf eels usually mate for life; A female can lay up to 10,000 eggs at a time, coiling her body around the eggs protectively

8. Both parents guard the eggs, the male will often take his turn coiled around the eggs or even coiled around the female as she guards the egg, for added protection

9. They lack a swim bladder and much therefore stay in constant swimming motion to stay afloat. They swim by moving their bodies in an S shape, much like a snake moves across the ground; they are slow moving creatures

10. Wolf eels can live for more than 20 years. They usually do not start to reproduce until about seven years old.


Suggested further reading:

The Marine Detective – No ugly fish

Monterey Bay Aquarium on the Wolf Eel



Science blogger and writer; Owner of Dr. How's Science Wows; Mother of three junior scientists who have taught me that to be a great scientist you need to look at life through the eyes of a child!