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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987