The eel may seem frightening, especially when encountering its barred teeth and apprehensive stare underwater. But underneath the hisses, and bulging eyes, lies an intriguing character— there’s a lot more to the eel than meets the eye.

What, exactly, is an eel? There are over 400 eel species. Their long, narrow bodies closely resemble an underwater snake—minus the scales, plus gills. And very sharp teeth. Eels are most commonly found in caves, rock crevices, and sometimes burrowed beneath the sand. Upon encountering an eel, expect any of the following—

Meeting the Eel.

Although eels may not look like the friendliest bunch, they’re all bark, hardly bite—the barring teeth, and daunting mouth, are all an attempt to breathe. The eel breathes by pumping water across its gills. So really, he’s more like–

Meet the Eel.

But like any other underwater creature, if the eel is provoked or feels threatened, it may try to defend itself. And due to horrible eyesight, the eel may mistake fingers for food. Generally—treat an eel with respect, and they’ll return the favor.

Upon second look, you may find..

 

The Top 5 things you didn’t know about eels:

1) Morays have the ability to tie their bodies in knots (and use this to gain leverage when tearing food).

2) Eels are covered in a slimy mucus, that allows them to slither in and out of reefs.

2) The eel can swim forwards as well as backwards.

3) Eels can travel on land for short distances.

4) Eel blood is poisonous.

5) People eat eels.

In conclusion, despite the teeth and stare, the eel is a unique, complex being that deserves our respect like any other. Be tentative, but be open! Embrace the eel—but don’t touch.