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Facts about Oarfish

Renuka Savant
Sea serpents, sea monsters, and what not. The humble old oarfish have been misunderstood for virtually no fault of theirs. Let's try to be reintroduced to this gorgeous creature that inhabits the deep seas.
It has been said that people fear what they don't understand and hate what they can't conquer. Seems like a weird way to begin an article on oarfish, isn't it? But don't leave just yet, we're getting there.
This quote pretty much sums up general human attitude towards fellow creatures inhabiting our planet. The oarfish, much like a lot of other creatures living in isolation, has been at the receiving end of prejudice since long. Often being a subject of speculation owing to its habitat and appearance, oarfish have always been shrouded in mystery.
Also, their peculiar appearance has only managed to add to their mystique. Let us then, reacquaint ourselves with this gorgeous sea creature, and get to know some interesting facts about oarfish in this story.
Oarfish sightings have always been rare, which is probably why details regarding its anatomy and behavior have been so sketchy. A recent recollection remains a video shot in the Gulf of Mexico, earlier this month, which shows the elegant sea creature in its complete glory.
It certainly brought these reclusive and elusive creatures in the limelight again, with more and more people scrambling to know more. For now, here are a few interesting things about oarfish.

Fun Facts about Oarfish

♦ You may also know the oarfish by other names, like giant oarfish, king of herrings, Pacific oarfish, ribbon fish, and streamer fish. They belong to the family Regalecidae, and are commonly referred to as oarfish, owing to their flattened, elongated bodies.
♦ Oarfish are credited with being the longest boned fish in the world, reaching up to 30 feet in length. There has also been an unestablished sighting of oarfish measuring more than 50 feet, which was understood to be a king of herrings (Regalecus glesne).
♦ Appearance-wise, the oarfish have a translucent, scaleless skin with a bluish tinge to it. Though it is thoroughly gorgeous to look at, this ain't its best feature.
♦ This fashionista of the deep seas has a ribbon-like dorsal fin running along its entire length and is red in color. This, along with a crest of long stiff rods, or fin rays, on the top of its head, makes it a real beauty.
♦ Owing to its flattened, snake-like body, the oarfish have erroneously earned the misnomer of sea serpents.
♦ As a happy inhabitant of the deep seas, its sightings have been rare. Most of these have occurred when a dead specimen has been washed on to the shore.
♦ With the exception of the polar seas, the oarfish are believed to be found almost everywhere in the deep seas. They have been spotted in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and from the American Pacific, to Chile in the southern hemisphere.
♦ Being an oceanic fish, the oarfish has been spotted living in depths of a mile or more. There have been instances when they have been washed up on to the shore in a state of injury, triggering the serpent story in creative minds that saw them.
♦ Its style of swimming is interesting and bizarre at the same time. The oarfish undulates its long dorsal fin while keeping its body straight, which is termed as an amiiform mode of swimming. It is known to swim in a vertical position, perpendicular to the ocean surface, in what is believed to be a method that helps the oarfish catch prey.
♦ Spawning activities apart, the oarfish does not seem to fancy the company of other oarfish, preferring to remain solitary most of its lifetime.

Oarfish: Up, Close, and Personal

  • Its body is scaleless, covered with silvery guanine.
  • The protrusible mouth is toothless.
  • It does not possess the swim bladder.
  • Its dorsal fin is distinctly colored, ranging from pinkish to cardinal red. Comprising around 400 dorsal fin rays, the first 10-12 are elongated forming a trailing crest with reddish dots on the tip of each ray.
  • The anal fin is absent, and the caudal fin is either quite tiny or absent at times, with the body tapering to a fine point.
  • The oarfish feed on plankton, crustaceans, and squid by straining them from the water using specially evolved gill rakes located in the mouth.
Looking at its appearance, it won't be too far off to call this fish the Red Riding Hood of the deep seas. And as long as we humans refrain from being the wicked wolf to it, the oarfish have nothing to worry about living their peaceful life in the deep seas.