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No. 45: May-Jun 1986

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The Gulper Eel And Its Knotty Problem

Occasionally brought up from great depths in nets, the gulper eel consists mainly of a huge mouth followed by a large bag of skin and, finally, a very long thin tail. The eel, often 6 feet long, can swallow prey as large or larger than itself. Such features are not particularly rare in deep-sea-creatures, but we do have to briefly describe this grotesque fish to get a delightful anomaly. It seems that in a few recovered specimens, the thin tail is tied in several overhand knots! Now moray eels can knot themselves, but the gulper eel is just a floating stomach with negligible musculature in its whiplike tail. So, just how did the knots get there?

(de Sylva, Donald P.; "The Gulper Eel and Its Knotty Problem," Sea Frontiers, 32:104, March-April 1986.)

Comment. We cannot resist mentioning the occasional discovery of groups of rats all tied together by their tails. Called "rat kings," these hapless snarls of rodents are usually dismissed as pranks or outright prevarication. How-ever, in recent years, respected naturalists have found "squirrel kings" in the wild. Gulper eels are not the only animals with knotty problems.

From Science Frontiers #45, MAY-JUN 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss