In case you don’t regularly keep up on fish news (shame on you human), giant undersea serpents are joining sunbathers on southern California’s beaches. This month, two “ribbon-like” oarfish—one 18-feet long and the other 14-feet—washed up on Santa Catalina Island and in Oceanside, reported the Los Angeles Times.
While scientist’s say that the two wash-ups might be linked and voo-doo experts contend that their presence on the seashore surely indicates that an earthquake is imminent, there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on. We don’t know a whole lot about oarfish.
Even though the oarfish may be the oldest of all living teleosts—a fish group that includes a majority of the fishes we know today—most of what we do know about the fish comes from dead specimens that have washed up on beaches.
“If all you knew about deer was road kill … how much would you actually know about deer?” Milton Love, a research biologist at the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara, told the LA Times.
Acording to the daillybreeze.com, we do know a few things. “They make a very unappetizing meal,” (not sure who vetted that), “they’re terrible swimmers, and they can grow to be at least 35 feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds,” the website reported.
But if we know that they’re terrible swimmers, surely someone has seen them live? According to a 2013 paper in the Journal of Fish Biology, a few people have.
Reports of these encounters have come from divers or those on boats in oceanic surface waters in the Mediterranean and near islands such as The Bahamas, the Louisiana State University paper states. “They all describe striking individuals [Oarfish] in a head-up, vertical orientation.”
The paper details five Oarfish sightings by remotely operated vehicles (ROV) between 2008 to 2011 in the gulf of Mexico in depths of anywhere from about 126 to1600 feet.
Mostly they found the fish in the same head-up, tail-down vertical position using its dorsal fin for locomotion. The Oarfish did not seem perturbed by the ROV, which the Louisiana team thinks could support earlier hypotheses that the creature has no natural predators.
Other nifty conclusions? It may be that this deep water monster is not as deep as we thought. “The blue stripes on the silver skin would appear to be a form of disruptive camouflage that would be most adaptive in a well-illuminated environment,” said the 2013 paper.
While fish geeks wait for the next live oarfish sighting, they can look forward to new insight from the recently deceased ones whose fate is dissection.
“Soon I will have oarfish pieces,” marine biologist, Love, told the dailybreeze.com.