<i>Eurypharynx pelecanoides </i> Click to enlarge image
A 30 cm long Gulper Eel trawled during the NORFANZ expedition at a depth between the surface and 874m, Tasman Sea, south-east of Lord Howe Island, May 2003 (NMNZ P.38952). Image: Robin McPhee
© NORFANZ

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    pelecanoides
    Genus
    Eurypharynx
    Family
    Eurypharyngidae
    Order
    Saccopharyngiformes
    Class
    Actinopterygii
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 80 cm in length.

Introduction

The Pelican Eel has an elongate body with a luminous organ at the end of the tail. The Gulper Eel occurs in midwaters of tropical and temperate seas worldwide.

Identification

The Pelican Eel has an elongate body with a luminous organ at the end of the tail. The eyes are tiny and close to the snout. There are several rows of small teeth in the massive jaws. The species is black, sometimes with a white line or groove on either side of the dorsal fin. The Pelican Eel is the only species in the family Eurypharyngidae.

Habitat

It has been recorded from depths of 500m to 3000m.

Distribution

The Pelican Eel occurs in midwaters of tropical and temperate seas worldwide. In Australian waters, this species is known from off north-western Western Australia, northern Queensland and New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.



Feeding and diet

Its major food items are crustaceans, but it also feeds on fishes, cephalopods and other invertebrates. It is believed to ingest its prey along with a quantity of water that is expelled through the gill openings.

Life history cycle

At maturity males undergo changes that include an enlargement of the olfactory organs and degeneration of the teeth and jaws. Females remain relatively unchanged.

References

  1. Smith, D. G. 1999. Eurypharyngidae. in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (Eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. Pp. iii-vi, 1398-2068.