Physical characteristics: Gulper eels have a short, flabby body, with a long stomach region. They have tiny eyes that function as light detectors. They also have a huge mouth with many slightly curved teeth. The tail is extremely long, about three fourths of the total body length, and ends in a long string with a glowing bulb at the end. The body has no scales. The largest gulper eel found was 5.2 feet (1.6 meters) long, although most of that length was the long whiplike tail.
Geographic range: Gulper eels live in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Habitat: Gulper eels live in the deep, open water of the ocean. Only young gulper eels have been captured at depths of less than 2,625 feet (800 meters). It is believed that adults typically live deeper than 6,562 feet (2,000 meters).
Gulper eels eat other fishes. The stomach can stretch quite far, allowing the eel to eat very large prey. (Illustration by Jacqueline Mahannah. Reproduced by permission.)
Diet: Gulper eels eat other fishes. The stomach can stretch quite far, allowing the eel to eat very large prey.
Behavior and reproduction: Because gulper eels live in such deep water, scientists can only guess at their behavior. Because of the weak skeleton and body muscles, gulper eels probably are very poor swimmers. They are believed to lure prey within range by means of the glowing bulb on the end of the tail. The eel may hang the bulb in the water near its mouth. The jaw muscles are the only well-developed muscles and probably allow the gulper eel to suck its prey into the large mouth by quickly opening the jaws. Males may locate females by tracking scent trails released by the females. Like other eels, gulpers are believed to die after reproducing. And like those of other eels, gulper eel larvae are ribbonlike and clear.
Gulper eels and people: The bizarre appearance of gulper eels fascinates people.
Conservation status: Gulper eels are not threatened or endangered.
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