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See a freaky gulper eel open wide in rare video

Exploration Vessel Nautilus had a crazy sighting of a creature that looks like an undersea muppet.

The deep sea is a hidden wonderland of strange and unusual creatures. The crew of the Exploration Vessel Nautilus got an eyeful this week of a rarely seen gulper eel, a type of deep-sea fish. Even better, they caught it ballooning up like a bizarre underwater air bag. 

The Nautilus videos aren't only great for the visuals, but also for the enthusiastic commentary of the scientists watching the exotic scenes unfold. "Looks like a muppet," is one of the first things we hear as the camera zooms in on the fish.   

Later, we see the gulper eel open its gigantic mouth wide, an event that brings out a whole lot of "whoas" and laughter from the watching scientists, who declare, "That was awesome."

The eel caught on video is likely a juvenile, since adults can reach up to 3 feet (roughly a meter) in length. "That pouch-like mouth can inflate in an instant, scooping up much larger prey like a pelican," the Nautilus team says.

The Nautilus, a project funded by the nonprofit Ocean Exploration Trust, is currently exploring seamounts in the Papahanaumokuaakea Marine National Monument conservation area near Hawaii. 

"Researchers are both interested in how this unusual chain of underwater mountains formed parallel to the Hawaiian Islands ridge, and whether these seamounts support vibrant coral and sponge communities like others in the region," says the Nautilus team.

The Nautilus crew may be doing some serious science, but there's always room to be in awe of the odd and wonderful creatures that live in the deep.