Elegant Moray, Gymnothorax elegans Bliss 1883

Other Names: Goldsborough's Moray Eel

An Elegant Moray, Gymnothorax elegans, from Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii, January 1970. Source: John E. Randall / FishBase. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A pale yellow to brownish moray shading to a reddish-brown tail, covered in small whitish spots (including the dorsal fin) that coalesce to form irregular bands posteriorly, a dark patch surrounding the gill opening, a white anal fin with a broad reddish-brown basal stripe that continues along the abdomen and thorax to the chin, a narrow white margin on the dorsal fin, and yellow inside the mouth.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Gymnothorax elegans in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/5373

Elegant Moray, Gymnothorax elegans Bliss 1883

More Info


Coral Sea east of Myrmidon Reef to east of Lady Elliot Island, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific:  East Africa, Madagascar and western Mascarenes east to Hawaiian Islands and Society Islands, north to Ogasawara Islands, south to Samoa.
Inhabits deep reefs, sometimes sheltering in crevices on steep drop-offs during the day.


Vertebrae 141. Teeth on jaws sharp, uniserial; intermaxillary with a large fang; vomerine teeth uniserial, much smaller than jaw teeth.


Colour in life (from the original description): "... the anterior portion of the body is a pale yellow shading into reddish-brown on the tail; head and body with small white spots round on the body, more irregular in shape on the tail. The dorsal shows only one row of large white spot, the interspaces forming dark vertical bands; anal white, with a reddish brown base continued along the abdomen and thorax to the chin. Gill openings in a black spot; no spot at the angle of the mouth. Inside of the  mouth gamboge yellow; lips pink."


The specific name is from the Latin elegans (=  elegant, fine, select), possibly in reference to the colour pattern of this species.

Species Citation

Gymnothorax elegans Bliss 1883, Transactions of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius 13: 60. Type locality: Mauritius, Mascarenes, southwestern Indian Ocean.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Elegant Moray, Gymnothorax elegans Bliss 1883


Bliss, R. 1883. Descriptions of new species of Mauritian fishes. Transactions of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius 13: 45-63 See ref at BHL

Böhlke, E.B., McCosker, J.E. & Smith, D.G. 1999. Family Muraenidae. pp. 1643-1657 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068.

Castle, P. H. J. & McCosker, J. E. 1986. Family No. 41: Muraenidae. pp. 165-176 in Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds). Smith's Sea Fishes. Johannesburg : Macmillan South Africa xx + 1047 pp. 144 pls. See ref at BHL

Jordan, D.S. & Evermann, B.W. 1903. Descriptions of new genera and species of fishes from the Hawaiian Islands. Bulletin of the U. S. Fish Commission 22(1902): 161-208. (described as Gymnothorax goldsboroughi, type locality Honolulu, Oahu Island, Hawaiian Islands) See ref at BHL

Jordan, D.S. & Evermann, B.W. 1905. The aquatic resources of the Hawaiian Islands. Part I.-The shore fishes of the Hawaiian Islands, with a general account of the fish fauna. Bulletin of the U. S. Fish Commission 23(pt 1)(1903): i-xxviii + 1-574 See ref at BHL

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. A comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia. Guam : Coral Graphics vi 330 pp. 192 pls. 

Randall, J.E. 2007. Reef and shore fishes of the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawai'i 546 pp.

Smith, D.G., McCosker, J. & Tighe, K. 2019. Gymnothorax elegans. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T195721A2407773. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T195721A2407773.en. Accessed on 02 October 2022.

Sih, T.L., Cappo, M. & Kingsford, M.J. 2017. Deep-reef fish assemblages of the Great Barrier Reef shelf-break (Australia). Science Reports 7: 10886 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-11452-1

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37060090

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Habitat:Deep reefs

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:65 cm TL

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