This Rare Footage of a Gulper Eel Stretching Its Jaws is Seriously Freaky

Gulper eels have the ability to expand their mouths to freakish proportions, and this showoff does not disappoint.

The gulper eel’s mouth can suddenly expand like a soap bubble to allow it to scoop up much larger prey, although the fish is thought to eat mainly small crustaceans. It’s theorized that, because of the fish’s tiny teeth, its ability to stretch to bizarre proportions is more of a back-up plan if food gets scarce and large fish are all that is on offer.

After inflating itself, the gulper—also known as a pelican eel because its scoop-like feeding method resembles the large water birds—abruptly deflates its mouth and swims away. Very little is known about these creatures that live up to 6,000 feet deep: why one might inflate and deflate itself like that, for instance. But new observations of another gulper eel, this one in the Gulf of Mexico, have some researchers speculating that the behavior happens when the fish feels threatened.

This gulper eel was likely a juvenile, as this species can grow up to three feet in length.