June 10th, 2013 by James Ayre
The giant oarfish — regalecus glesne — is rarely seen by humans while still alive. But now, an incredible video of the rare animal has surfaced on youtube, and is absolutely worth a watch for those that love wildlife, especially the “weirder” kinds. The encounter between the sea-serpent-like oarfish and the ROV that filmed it took place in the northern Gulf of Mexico, at a depth of around 1520 feet.
As you can no doubt imagine while watching the video, and especially once you take it’s size into account, the incredible and rather strange-looking deep sea fish species has often been characterized as a sea serpent — though it is rather harmless as far as being a threat to humans.
Oarfish do reach rather enormous sizes though. One of the species — regalecus glesne — is the longest bony fish species currently in the world. That species — also known as the “king of herrings” — grows to sizes of at least 56 feet in length. That name comes from a number of folk stories that describe how the fish is known to lead shoals of herring as their “king”, and is also no doubt in reference to the “crown” on the animal’s head.
In total there are four species of oarfish, divided into two separate genera. And while all four do have quite a lot in common, there are some distinct differences — primarily to do with size and appearance. As a whole — oarfish possess a worldwide range — being present in all of the world’s oceans. Though they do tend to be most common in tropical or temperate regions.
Now onto some of the stranger, more interesting facts:
– They appear to have a habit of coming to the surface — and lingering there — when they are sick or dying.
– Though they are occasionally caught as by-catch, their meat is not well regarded — being of a very “gelatinous consistency”.
– “Of the approximately 400 dorsal fin rays, the first 10 to 12 are elongated to varying degrees, forming a trailing crest embellished with reddish spots and flaps of skin at the ray tips.”
– In Japan the appearance of the oarfish — known there as the Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace — near the surface of the water is said to portend an impending earthquake.
– The adults are apparently solitary animals.
– They are known for being incredibly deep divers — spending significant time at depths of up to 3300 feet.
– The oarfish has no visible teeth.
– There is a firsthand account of being electrically shocked by the fish when it was touched.
– Their bodies are scaleless — in contrast to many more common types of fish — and are covered in iridescent guanine.
– “The oarfish was observed to propel itself via an amiiform mode of swimming; that is, rhythmically undulating the dorsal fin whilst keeping the body itself straight. Perhaps indicating a feeding posture, oarfish have been observed swimming in a vertical orientation, with their long axis perpendicular to the ocean surface. In this posture the downstreaming light would silhouette the oarfishes’ prey, making them easier to spot,” as Wikipedia notes.
– The giant oarfish has been found as as far north as 72°N and as far south as 52°S.
Imagine being a fisherman, by yourself in the open ocean, meeting one of these animals, without “knowing” what one is — must be an interesting experience…
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