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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Gulper Eel Saccopharynx lavenbergi

The gulper eel is best known for its ability to swallow prey as large as itself. This fish has a small head and tiny eyes but enormous jaws. Its mouth and throat can be hugely distended to engulf its prey and the teeth can be depressed backward. The gulper eel's stomach can be similarly extended to accommodate its gargantuan meals. The body ends in a luminous organ on a long, whiplike tail. This feature may be used as a lure or a decoy; this has yet to be confirmed, since no one has been able to observe these deep-sea fish in the wild. The gulper eel has planktonic eggs that develop into long, thin larvae, like those of its shallow-water relatives, and it probably dies after spawning.

Gulper Eelzoom image
  • Order Saccopharyngiformes
  • Length Up to 5 ft (1.5 m)
  • Weight Not recorded
  • Depth 6,600–9,800 ft (2,000–3,000 m)
  • Distribution Deep waters of eastern Pacific, from California to Peru
Gulper Eel habitat mapzoom image