Last October, two dead oarfish washed up on the Southern California coastline within one week of each other. The first was 18 feet long and dragged ashore Catalina Island; the second was 14 feet long and discovered near Oceanside. Before then, very little was know about the giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne), the world’s largest bony fish, since they tend to prefer deep sea dwelling -- around 650 feet below.
But these days you can learn a lot from dead fish, especially when they’re in such great condition. The fishes’ bones, heart, gills, stomach, tissue, and DNA are presently being examined, scanned, and even grilled by scientists at various institutions.
And now there’s more. Participants of a travel program through Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium got to see two live oarfish swimming in shallow waters in Baja California, Mexico, near the shore of the Sea of Cortés. Here’s a video of the encounter uploaded on Monday:
Was there a reason these recent sightings have been paired, or was it a coincidence that there were two? Sometimes oarfish wash up in bunches, Rick Feeney of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles tells Scientific American. It could be that oceanic currents are shifting, driving them closer to land. “The standard reason researchers have given in the past is that oarfish get injured at sea by strong storms and then wash up inshore when they die."
When oarfish come closer to shore, it may be a sign of distress, he explains to the Los Angeles Times. They could be starving, disoriented, or misplaced by a storm. That sadly doesn’t portend well for our two newly spotted sea serpents.
Here’s another rare footage of the fish, taken by a remotely operated vehicle at a depth of 200 feet on August 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico. That observation and some others like it were published in Journal of Fish Biology last year.
[hat tip io9]
Video: Shedd Aquarium/Un-Cruise Adventures
Image: U.S. Navy via Wikimedia