5 Monstrous Facts About Pike Eels
Earlier this week, Australian Facebook user Ethan Tippa caught the Internet’s attention by posting a photo of a mysterious creature that had washed onto the shore of Lake Macquarie in New South Wales. Though it’s been compared to everything from a deformed crocodile to the Loch Ness Monster, the specimen was ultimately identified as a nocturnal pike eel by marine biologist Julian Pepperell. Little is known about the creatures, even though they’re fairly common to the waters of Australia and Southeast Asia. They may not be giant, mythical, or man-eating, but there are still plenty of reasons you wouldn’t want to bump into one of these guys on a midnight swim.
1. THEY’VE BEEN KNOWN TO FRIGHTEN FISHERMEN.
It’s uncertain how this recently discovered pike eel met its end, but Pepperell told the Newcastle Herald that it could have been accidentally caught in a fishing net. According to him, the eels are commonly caught by fishermen who get the "fright of their lives" after hauling up the thrashing predator, which has razor-sharp teeth that are "geared towards inflicting slashing wounds."
2. THEY CAN GROW NEARLY 6 FEET LONG.
Some pike eels grow longer than adult humans, with an average maximum length for the species reaching 5.9 feet from nose to tail. While impressive, the creature still isn’t quite as large as many have guessed from looking at the photo above. The eel that’s pictured is estimated to have been 4.5 feet long, and while some commenters accused the image of being Photoshopped, the perspective is merely the result of a clever camera angle.
3. THEY’RE PREDATORY.
Fortunately for anyone who goes swimming in Indo-Pacific waters on a regular basis, pike eels don’t have a taste for human flesh. They prefer crustaceans and benthic fish that dwell near the soft floors of estuaries and coastal waters. The eels have been known to swim nearly 330 feet beneath the surface when hunting for their prey.
4. THEY COVER A LARGE AREA.
Pike eels are most commonly spotted off the coasts of Australia and Southeast Asia, but they can be found throughout the Indian Ocean. The creatures have turned up as far west as Africa's southern coast.
5. THEY’RE A LOCAL DELICACY.
Despite their intimidating appearance, pike eels are perfectly safe to eat. They're sold alive and freshly killed in food markets throughout Southeast Asia, and are usually served in soup or prepared grilled with mushrooms, eggplant, or seaweed. They were even featured as a secret ingredient in an episode of the original Iron Chef series.
Header image courtesy of Ethan Tippa via Facebook.