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Student discovers rare glowing eels

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By Bella Borja for KUAM News


One student at the University's Marine Lab made quite the discovery while his class was checking out the fluorescent view of the corals in the tank.

Meet Eel Patrick Harris and Eel Degrasse Tyson, two eels dazzling all who've come to see them.

"It's Uropterygius Micropterus," Biologist Brent Tibbatts said. "The common name for these is the tide pool snake moray eel."

These eel's giving off a glow that even has local biologists stunned.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Tibbetts said. "Until this last week we didn't really know of this special aspect of their coloration and biology. "These guys entire body is , and that's a little more puzzling."

These small creatures are commonly seen in the reef flats around the island, Tibbetts said.

Student, Justin Berg, is the one who made the discovery. His class was checking out the fluorescent coral in the tank at the Marine lab when something unexpected swam by.


"At first it was creepy or scary because we didn't know what it was and none of our other fish really bio fluoresces," he said. "And then once we figured out what it was it was really exciting."

But the glow of the little guys can only be seen using special glasses and when you turn off the lights. 

"Then they are exposed to the correct lighting and using the right filters they florescent very bright green," Tibbetts said. "Florescent in fish is something relatively recent discovered in the last ten years. It's not really clear why. There are a lot of theories but nobody really knows for sure."

It could be a defense mechanism for the eel, Tibbetts said.

Berg says through his research this particular marvel has only been recorded once in the Caribbean and now in Guam.

"It's very rare and makes me want to take our UV camera and lights out into the bay," he said.

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