Pelican eel observed hunting for the first time ever
The crew of the LULA1000 manned submersible managed to record a first-ever video of a hunting pelican eel or gulper eel.
The observation was made 1000 meters deep south of the island of São Jorge, in the Azores. This is the first time the pelican eel has been observed directly by humans.
Very little is known about this fish that lives in extreme depths. Its name pelican eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides) originates from its capacity to inflate its head like a pelican when feeding.
The video, recently published in Science Magazine, shows a pelican eel actively hunting for prey. Until now, scientists had thought that those animals would stay luring on prey to be sucked in or hanging vertically in the water waiting for sinking food fall into their mouths. This video is the first evidence that pelican eels actively pursue their prey and hunt rather than just waiting for the prey to “fall” into their mouths from above.
The video is also a surprise regarding the habitat of this species: in previous studies, all specimens had been caught pelagically in the Atlantic, mostly bathypelagically, between 500-3000 m – far above the sea bed. Now, this video actually shows a pelican eel feeding on bottom-prey, very close to the sea bed.
Such insights on behaviour can only be obtained by direct observation in the deep.
These observations provide valuable information on biology and adaptations of deep-sea creatures to their environment.