Everything you need to know about ribbon eels, and a little about gymnastics

I maybe didn't act the girliest when I was little. In fact, I was pretty much as tomboy as they come. But when the Olympics came around, even my tomboy tendencies were no match for the gravitational pull of gymnastics. That stuff is like crack for little girls. I mean, come on. The Magnificent Seven in 1996? Kerri Strug sticking the vault landing on her busted ankle to win the gold for the American team? Those tiny humans were bad asses.

The event I couldn't get into, though, was rhythmic gymnastics. To me, it always seemed a little like regular gymnastics' ugly friend: kept in place to make the regular gymnasts look better. As though that's actually necessary! When you literally hurtle yourself through the air on a regular basis, you are basically a superhero. You don't need girls waving ribbons around to feel like more of an athlete.

The ribbon thing. It would probably be cool enough if it weren't stacked up against regular gymnastics, which is essentially humans flying. But there's just no way to compete when that's what you're up against. There just isn't.

Reminiscent of the ribbon dancing thing—only infinitely cooler—is the aptly-named ribbon eel. Found in the tropical Indo-Pacific, this eel is generally pretty secretive, choosing to hide in a cave or burrow under the sand with just its head protruding. With its dramatic coloration, the ribbon eel is pretty cool just hanging out in its hole, but when it decides to free swim—well, that's when it becomes truly spectacular.

 

Interesting Facts about Ribbon Eels

1. Ribbon eels are sequentially hermaphroditic—that is to say, all individuals are born one sex and eventually change  sex at some point in their lives. In the specific case of the ribbon eel, all juveniles are born male (protandry), and individuals become female as they reach the end of their lives.

Juveniles are easily recognizable because they exhibit black coloring with a yellow stripe.

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Juvenile Ribbon Eel

Black juvenile ribbon eel

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Juvenile Ribbon Eel

Black juvenile ribbon eel

 

2. Male and female ribbon eels are also distinguishable by their coloring! Adult males are blue with yellow accents.

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Blue Ribbon Eel

Blue ribbon eel (adult male)

 

3. Females are almost completely yellow. As the adult male reaches full size, it begins to turn into a female, and turns yellow. It will then mate, lay eggs, and die within about a month. Due to this short lifespan, female ribbon eels are a relatively rare sight.

 

4. They might look angry, but they're just breathing! Like moray eels (and unlike most fish), the ribbon eel has to open and close its mouth in order to circulate water towards its gills (in order to breathe).

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Blue Ribbon Eel

Blue Ribbon Eel

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Blue Ribbon Eel

Blue ribbon eel

 

 

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One Response to “Everything you need to know about ribbon eels, and a little about gymnastics”

  1. Gail Kohler says:

    I would like to tell the author of this article about the Ribbon Eel thank you. For such a short article you answered all the questions I had after searching for them for an hour on the internet. So thank you and I look foreword to finding more of your writing!

    · January 17, 2016 @ 7:09 am

    Reply

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