Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

For my first couple of dives here, I hit the water at a site called Yokobama (ヨコバマ) in Futo harbour (富戸). It's a shore dive, with entry and exit ramps clearly marked by buoys and ropes.

Though it's been over a year and a half since I've used my drysuit, it only took a few minutes to sort myself out, with the most difficult task being re-acquainting myself with adjusting buoyancy and maintaining trim without the use of my BCD.

Donning a drysuit has its rewards, like having an opportunity to see what's probably my favourite moray eel...the dragon moray (Enchelycore pardalis), or tora-utsubo (トラウツボ) as it's known in Japanese.

dragon moray eel

I'm sure these eels live in other places, but it's pretty much a shoe-in to see them if you dive in Izu.

Translated literally, tora-utsubo means "tiger moray eel". Personally, I think they look more like dragons than they do tigers, although it's interesting to note that whoever gave these eels their respective common names in English and Japanese both wanted to connote a strong, fearsome animal.

In real life though, these guys are shy...just like other morays. Much of the time, you'll come across them hiding under rocks, in crevices and otherwise staying out of the limelight. Hence...the title of this post. I had to bend, contort and twist in all different ways to get photos yesterday, because the erstwhile dragons were so well concealed.

So the "crouching" part actually refers to what I had to do to get eel pictures...but it just so happens that they're called tigers in Japanese too. Clever movie reference, no?

I thought so too, until I googled the binomial name to make sure I'd spelled it correctly, and discovered that another common name for this eel in English is "leopard moray eel". Somehow, "Crouching Leopard, Hidden Dragon" didn't have the same ring to it.

Anyway, there's significant variation in colouration among these eels. The one below, for instance is a lot whiter overall. I'm not certain whether the variation is due to age, sex, genetics, etc., but the practical implication is that you need to look around a bit to find just the right nuance of dragon, tiger, or leopard that you prefer.

dragon moray eel

A couple of other photos of these eels that I took previously here and here.