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Stubborn crab and cutthroat eels clash in brutal food fight on seafloor, video shows

Deep sea explorers probing an area off the East Coast watched in astonishment as first one, then two cutthroat eels ambushed a red crab feeding on a squid carcass.

A video of the breakfast battle was posted this week on Facebook by NOAA Ocean of Exploration and Research, and it includes a running commentary from the researchers.

The vicious brawl – which stirred clouds of seafloor dust – turned into a tug-of-war with the two eels at one end of the squid corpse and the smaller crab holding with its claws at the other.

“Food is scarce in the deep ocean, so competition within the food web can be fierce!,” NOAA wrote in the post.

The amazing part is who won: The outnumbered and smaller crab.

“These cutthroat eels are pretty hardcore when it comes to feeding,” noted a NOAA researcher in the video. “Cutthroat eels are pretty ambitious predators in the deep sea. Go crab, for keeping ahold of your meal.”

The cutthroat eels featured in the video have “elongate wormlike bodies” and live on the ocean floor in deep water, according to Earth.com. In absence of arms or claws, they use their wide mouths and teeth to grab what they want.

Factor in their rather dead looking black eyes, and you have one intimidating predator.

The video, watched 2,400 times as of Thursday, was recorded the first week of September during the Deep Connections 2019 project, which explored “unknown and poorly understood deep water areas” off the east coast of the U.S. and Canada.

Among the sites probed with a remotely operated camera were seamounts and canyons at depths of nearly 3.7 miles, NOAA said.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
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