Why the Wolf Eel is the “Shrek” of the Sea

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Wolf Eel

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a giant, gnarly-looking creature who was strong, like The Hulk, and unattractive, like your aunt’s Christmas sweater. Many were afraid of him and assumed he was mean.

Wait. Why are we talking about the animated film character Shrek on a scuba diving blog? We’re here to tell you that Shrek and wolf-eels have several things in common.

Both have names that describe their looks, not their personality.

Shrek comes from the Yiddish word meaning “fear” or “terror.” The wolf-eel (not actually an eel) was probably named this because it is scary, like a wolf, and has a long body, like an eel. The truth is both are friendly and kind and wish you wouldn’t judge them by their looks.

Both are protective of their living quarters.

The desire Shrek has to protect his swamp home is the premise of the fairy tale. Wolf-eels find a rocky crevice “den” when they are about 4 to 7 years old and call it home. Another fan of living in rocky dens, the octopus, will often try to huff and puff and blow the wolf-eel’s house down and compete for the same living quarters.

Both long to find their princess and raise a family.

While Shrek will do anything for Princess Fiona, the wolf-eel, often seen in pairs, is thought to mate for life. Inside their den, the female lays her eggs, and the male fertilizes them. Together, the couple guards and protect the eggs until they are ready to hatch.

They both look physically intimidating.

As an ogre, Shrek is larger and greener than a man. He can break wood and bend metal. The wolf-eel also is large and in charge and can grow to be the same length as three aluminum 80 cylinders stacked end to end. (203 cm / 80 in, 18.6 kg / 41 lb)

Shrek uses swamp slugs to brush his teeth while the wolf-eel uses sea urchins as a toothpick.

Found in the colder waters of the Pacific Ocean, the wolf-eel is one of the few predators of the rapidly multiplying sea urchins. His strong jaw can crush crunchy crustaceans like mussels and clams.

If you ever meet a wolf-eel, remember the lessons learned from the fairy tale about Shrek. Don’t be frightened by their menacing face. They just want you to respect their environment and let them live in their home in the sea.

To search for wolf-eel sightings, check out ScubaEarth’s Critter Finder.

Wolf Eel