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More Oarfish And This Time They’re Alive

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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In October, two oarfish mysteriously washed up dead on beaches in Southern California. It’s unusual to find one intact oarfish carcass, so the fact that there were two within days of each other had scientists scratching their heads. While it was probably nothing more than coincidence, researchers quickly took the opportunity to study the intact critters. Chris Clarke wrote about that research at KCET ReWild, and BBC News created a video:

Rick Feeney, an ichthyologist at the the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles explained to me then that oarfish do sometimes wash up in bunches, sometimes a male and a female together. “What this means, we don’t know.” We do know that is has no connection to earthquakes, as some have suggested. It could be that oceanic currents are shifting, driving the oarfish closer to shore. “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,” he added.

But that doesn’t explain how participants on a Shedd Aquarium trip to Baja California found themselves watching two living oarfish swimming around in very shallow water:

It’s a good reminder that the more we think we understand the deep, the more we realize we have so much more work to do.

Image: Oarfish that washed ashore on a Bermuda beach in 1860. The animal was 16 ft long and was originally described as a sea serpent. Drawing by R. Ellis in Monsters of the Sea, public domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Jason G. Goldman About the Author: Dr. Jason G. Goldman received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Southern California, where he studied the evolutionary and developmental origins of the mind in humans and non-human animals. Jason is also an editor at ScienceSeeker and Editor of Open Lab 2010. He lives in Los Angeles, CA. Follow on . Follow on Twitter @jgold85.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Wayne Williamson 4:52 pm 04/14/2014

    Just wondering by the way the one is dragging its “tail” in the sand, if it is laying eggs. Does anyone know what their complete life cycle is?

    Link to this

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