The Gulper Eel is found in deep blue seas and it is also called Pelican Eel or Umbrella Mouth Gulper. Gulper Eel is considered as a subspecies of eel and they are normally found in temperate and tropical waters. Gulper Eels live in various parts of Australian waters including New South Wales, Northern Queensland and Northwest Australia. They live 300 – 5000 meters below the surface and the Gulper Eels in North Atlantic waters go down to 9800 feet. Gulper Eel is a snake-like fish and is weird-looking. Gulper Eels belong to the Eurypharyngidae family. Though it appears like eel Gulper Eel is really not an eel. While the real eels belong to the Anguilliformes order, Gulper Eels belong to the order of Saccopharyngiformes. Among all the marine species, the gulper eel looks very particular and unlike the other deep sea creatures, gulper eels have very small eye-balls. Gulper Eel is included in the IUCN Red List of Endangered species. Gulper Eel is black or dark green in color.
Here are a few interesting facts about Gulper Eel.
(1) The most outstanding physical characteristic of the gulper eel is its large mouth. The mouth is larger than the body of the eel. The loosely hinged mouth can be opened very wide so as to swallow a creature which has a larger size than the eel. The gulp eel can stretch its stomach also to accommodate large quantity of food.
(2) Unlike various other marine animals the eyes of gulper eel are very small. It is widely believed that instead of forming images these small eyes detect traces of light that are faint.
(3) The whip-like tail of gulper eel is very long and the tail is used for its movement. At the end of the tail there is an organ called photophore which produces light. The photophore produces pink glow and also occasional red flashes. Gulper eel is unable to chase its prey and using the glow of its tail the eel attracts fish and other creatures to its mouth.
(4) In spite of having the huge mouth the gulper eel eats only squids, shrimps and other small sized crustaceans. The large mouth enables the eel to eat more varieties of fish at a time so that it will not be affected by food scarcity.
(5) When gulper eel catches the prey into its mouth large amount of water also enters the mouth which is subsequently let out through the gill slits.
(6) Lancet fish is the main predator of gulper eel. It has a few other predators also.
(7) There is not much information about the reproduction process of gulper eel. During the mating season the olfactory organs of the males get enlarged and their teeth and jaws degenerate. By smelling the pheromones released by the females, the males locate their mates.
(8) The female gulper eels remain rather unchanged during the mating season. Gulper eels die within few days after reproduction.
(9) The gulper eels resemble eels in their appearance and are black or deep green in color. Some of them have a white stripe on their body.
(10) The gulper eels attain a maximum length of 80 cm and it has long thin body and a large head.
(11) Unlike the other varieties of fish, the gulper eels do not have scales, swim bladders and pelvic fins.
(12) While most of the fish varieties have muscle segments in the shape of “W”, the muscle segments of gulper eel are of “V” shape.
(13) The head of gulper eel appears unusually and disproportionately large because the lower jaw of this fish is hinged at the base of the head without any body mass behind it. This makes the head appear disproportionately large.
(14) Another unusual aspect of gulper eels is that the lateral line ampullae project out instead of being kept in a small groove. This will ensure increased sensitivity.
(15) Gulper eel has very tiny teeth while deep sea fish varieties have normally big long teeth. Hence they are unable to trap fishes of big size.
(16) When the gulper eel comes amidst groups of small fishes and prawns, its oral cavity performs like the fishing net.
(17) When the gulper eel does not get sufficient food in deep sea it moves up to the surface and may also move to waterways in search of food.
(18) Normally gulper eels remain in the bathypelagic zone of the sea which is 4000 – 26000 feet deep where sunlight cannot reach. Hence it is considered as a mysterious fish.
(19) The hinged head of the gulper eel which can be rotated makes gulper eel the most peculiar type of fish.
(20) Gulper eel normally eats little shellfishes. When they are not getting sufficient quantity of their normal food they consume fishes of bigger size also using their very big mouth.