animal Type
Maximum Size

1 m

(3.2 feet)


300–2,000 m

(980–6,600 feet)



in the twilight (mesopelagic) and midnight (bathypelagic) zones


Small fishes


Eastern Pacific Ocean

Northern California to Peru


Meet a rarely seen denizen of the deep!

MBARI has studied the deep waters of Monterey Bay and beyond for more than 30 years. In our thousands of dives to these dark depths, we’ve only seen this species seven times. But we were so enamored by this curious creature that we featured it in our logo.

See that massive mouth? Food is scarce in the deep sea, so a gulper eel’s oversized mouth helps it swallow any morsel of food—big or small—that it comes across. Scientists think the glowing tip of this eel’s sinewy body might act as a luminescent lure to attract unsuspecting prey and then—gulp—it becomes dinner.

The midwater doesn’t offer any places to hide from hungry predators, so it’s eat or be eaten in these waters. Many fishes there have evolved inventive strategies for finding food, like sharp teeth, gaping jaws, and big bellies. MBARI scientists have been studying deep-sea food webs to better understand who’s eating whom.


Video Clips


Choy, C.A., S.H.D. Haddock, and B.H. Robison. 2017. Deep pelagic food web structure as revealed by in situ feeding observations. Proc Biol Sci, 284: 1–10.