Weird Gramma
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A deep-sea gulper eel drawn on board the British research ship Discovery II in1952 by the famed biologist Sir Alister Hardy.
From Dr. Hardy’s “The Open Sea: It’s Natural History” (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston , 1965)
A gulper eel from Australia.
Photo: S. Humphreys, Australian Museum, http:www/

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Howdy, Weird Gramma here with “WeirdFins,” all about strange stuff in the sea, and brought to you by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Now, can you imagine stuffing in your mouth something as big—or even bigger—than you are, and then swallowing it? Well, some fishes can do just that. They’re called gulpers, gulper eels or, like the seabirds with the huge beak, pelican eels. These are dudes that live really deep in the open ocean, and some reach six feet in length. . . the size of a grown man!

Gulper eels are dark and basically just one big, ugly mouth and stomach, with a flabby body and a long, skinny tail. Some kinds have teeth, and some kinds don’t. Some kinds eat squid, shrimp, and even tinier animals, but the reason gulpers can swallow such big fish is that the lower jaw is hinged, like a barn door, to just drop way down and scoop up a big fish. Then the stomach takes over and stretches like a balloon to hold the entire fish, and the gulper swims around with its giant belly until the prey is digested.

Gulpers live in total darkness, so their eyes are real tiny and not much good. But the end of their tail shines like a light bulb and maybe this is to attract either prey or a mate. You probably won’t see a gulper, but they’re so weird that the logo of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California features a kind that lives off the West Coast---but almost a mile down!

You can see pictures of gulper eels on the National Marine Fisheries Service WeirdFins link at

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