Wolf Eel

The Wolf Eel can be described as a type of sea wolf or wolffish that lives mainly in the North Pacific waters. Often mistaken for true eel, the wolf eel is not related in any way to other species of true eel. Instead, they are one of the 5 types of sea wolves. Nevertheless, it is notable for its distinct eel-like skinny and long appearance which is not present in the other types of sea wolves.

Wolf Eel Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Perciformes

Family:  Anarhichadidae

Genus: Anarrhichthys

Species: A. ocellatus

Scientific Name: Anarrhichthys ocellatus

Physical Characteristics

The distinct physical characteristics of the wolf eel are mentioned below.

Size: These eels typically attain a length of about 8.2 feet or 2.5 m on maturity.

Body: They have a grey colored body with many blackish vertical bands and spots covering the entire length of the body.

Weight: The wolf eels can have a maximum weight of around 18.4 kg.

Eyes: They have medium to large round eyes with a black or dark brown appearance.

Teeth: There is a row of spiky teeth at the front on both the jaws.

Sexual Dimorphism: Males have a lighter coloration whereas the females are much darker in appearance.


The wolf eels typically live for almost 25 years.


Wolf eels are mostly spotted in North Pacific waters along the coastal areas of North America starting from Okhotsk and Seas of Japan and the islands right around the coast of California to southern Alaska. As of yet there are no regional subspecies associated with the wolf eels.


Wolf eels normally inhabit the stone and rock crevices, caves and dens in the reefs.


These eels are commonly gentle in their behavior and they hardly ever attack humans. They move very slowly in the waters and interact in a friendly way with the divers and do not hesitate to consume food out of the divers’ hands. These eels create a lifelong bond with their partners and live in the same den consistently every year unless they are driven out by other bigger marine animals.


Wolf eel diet often depends on the stage of life that it is in. While the young ones typically feed on the planktons, the adults consume snails, crabs, clams, mussels, sea urchins and sand dollars.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Wolf eels start pairing up with their partners at about 4 years of age. By the time they are 7, they commence their reproductive activities. At the end of a successful mating session, female wolf eels can lay a large cluster of eggs that consist of around 10000 eggs in one single brood.

The eggs are guarded by both the parents and they use their bodies to wrap the eggs so that they are not accessed by the predators. At this stage, only one parent is going to leave the eggs to go and search for food at any given time. The eggs hatch after about 16 weeks. The larval and the baby wolf eels often stay around the upper areas of ocean water and stay there for around two years. At the end of this period, they choose to settle at the lower level waters. The juveniles are orange in color and they turn grey as they attain maturity.


The wolf eels are often predated upon by the seals, sharks and the other larger eels. The young eels are attacked by rockfishes, kelp greenling and other fishes.


Check out the adaptations of the wolf eel.

  • Wolf eel has got a very hard and powerful jaw and they can use it to crush different types of hard objects found in its environment, like hard-shelled crustaceans, snails, spiny sea urchins, mussels, clams, and other types of fishes.
  • These fishes have a scary appearance and is notable for its rugged look, tooth filled mouth and large eyes which helps in scaring off the predators.
  • As they live around the rocky areas of ocean reef, the wolf eels can easily squeeze their bodies and enter the small crevices.

Conservation Status

Although having stable populations, the wolf eel has not yet been categorized and classified by IUCN 3.1 Red List.

Interesting Facts

Here is a look at the most interesting facts about the wolf eels

  • Certain Native American tribes in northwest coastal regions believe that the wolf eel has got supernal powers, which is why they were regarded as sacred. This is why they refer to the wolf eel as “doctorfish”.
  • In certain tribal cultures, it is only the healers who possess the right to eat these wolf eels as it is believed that this can boost their healing powers.
  • When threatened in any way, the wolf eel can inflict serious bites on the humans that can be extremely painful.
  • In many parts of the world, the wolf eel is regarded as a delicacy and people love to eat their sweet and tender flesh.

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