Long ago, people believed that oarfish would "row" using their pelvic fins in a circular manner. That is how they got their name.
Later, it was discovered that the pectoral fins were used for taste perception and locomotion.
The fish are also called ribbonfish due to their long elongated bodies. In Palau, they go by the name roosterfish because they have slender and reddish fins.
Oarfish Are The Longest Bony Fish Known To Man
The most unbelievable trait in these sea creatures is their ability to grow longer than a school bus. The giant oarfish can reach over 50 feet and weigh up to 600 pounds.
For this reason, the oarfish is the longest bony fish known to man, and they have had a Guinness Book of World Records title to prove it.
They belong to the Regalecidae family. The fish's family name comes from the Latin name regalis, which means "royal."
These fish were first described in 1772.
There are two types of oarfish, giant (Regalecus glesne) and slender oarfish (Regalecus russelii). The giant oarfish is much harder to catch, and they are usually called "king of herrings" because they look a lot like herrings.
The fish stand out for several other reasons, including their lack of anal fins. The fish have a concave head and a protruding mouth. The fish also have huge eyes that allow them to see deep in the ocean.
The sea creatures have distinctive red dorsal crests and live around 3,280 feet under the water, making them extremely rare to see.
They also don't have scales but instead, have tubercules. Their skins have a silvery substance known as ganoine.
Scientists believe that fish live a solitary life. The fish live in temperate and tropical oceans, although rarely seen. They have a lifespan of more than ten years.
They Are Harmless Giants
In appearance, the oarfish look like ribbon fish because they have long and skinny bodies and about 400 dorsal-fin rays, the first 10 of which form a crown-like crest.
The fins have no spines, and they start just above their large eyes and run throughout the length of the fish.
Despite their size, the fish are quite harmless. They have small toothless mouths, and they feed quite passively as they just swim around with their mouths open and eat whatever gets in.
The fish eats tiny plankton, small fish, squid, and jellyfish. Their predators are, in all likelihood, large ocean carnivores.
When swimming, they go vertically through the water and can shoot up to the water's surface. Despite their size, the fish pose no risk to boats and people.
They are most likely to come close to the surface at night because they see lights on boats and get attracted to them.
Experts believe that the fish get closer to the surface while looking for food.
Generally, when the fish make it to the surface, they die. The fish live in very deep waters where there are few or no currents, and that's because their skins are soft and easily damaged by water currents.
When an oarfish washed up on the shore in California, it was believed that had happened because strong currents had pushed them. After that, they were beaten to death by the swells.
The fish lack muscle mass, making it impossible for them to survive the currents in shallow waters.
It has also been discovered the fish have bluish and blackish streaks, squiggles, and black dots, which disappear after they die. These markings are probably the reason the fish are bioluminescent while under the water.
Those who have tried to eat the oarfish have said that they have a slimy and unappealing texture. Their flesh is flabby and gooey.
How Oarfish Reproduce
Scientists have studied the reproductive morphology of oarfish and come to the conclusion that they reproduce by batching spawn. The breeding seasons are thought to last for about one or two months.
The eggs float to the surface and then hatch after three weeks to release larvae that eat zooplankton.
The fish are believed to get deeper into the ocean floor as they mature and only come to the surface when dead or sick.
Scientists were able to inseminate and hatch oarfish in February 2019 artificially. They used gonads from two fish that had washed up on the shore.
Unfortunately, the larvae died for lack of food, but they swam using pectoral fins with their mouths open before then.
Ancient Japanese Myth About Oarfish Proven True
Some people have a problem believing oarfish are real, and that's because they are so rare.
Their rarity and enormous size are the reason there are many myths about the sea serpent exist. The fish is also in Japanese folklore.
In Japan, the oarfish is known as the "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace." They believe the creatures are a sign of earthquakes and tsunamis.
The legend was cemented by the appearance of more than a dozen oarfish on Japan's shores during the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Strangely, it would make sense that the fish would appear on the beach when disasters are about to happen.
After all, creatures living near the bottom of the sea sense earth movements more acutely, which is why they would rise to the surface of the sea while seeking relative safety.
Otherwise, because these fish are rarely seen, they have remained part of folklore even today. The lucky few who have seen the fish in real life have been shocked by their size.
The Status Of The Oarfish Today
To this day, there are many mysteries about the oarfish. There is even an account by experts in New Zealand saying that the fish give off electric shocks when touched.
Most of what is known about them are based on what we have learned based on the fish that end up on the beach. As rare as the oarfish, catching them alive is even harder.
The conservation status of oarfish is not very clear since they live so deep under the water and hardly ever rise to the surface. It is challenging to access their habitats and determine their population numbers.
It was unique when United States Navy SEALS encountered a 23-foot giant oarfish on the Coronado coast, California, in 1996.
In 2001, an oarfish was recorded while Navy personnel inspected a buoy in the Bahamas. This was the first live oarfish recorded on camera. The serpentine creature was undulating in the waters rhythmically.
In 2019, two oarfish were discovered in nets by a fisherman in Okinawa, Japan.
More research is being done on the oarfish, and scientists have more information about the "serpents" than they ever did. People now know that the feared creatures are pretty harmless.
The creature has become more popular with Animal Cross: New Horizons, a game by Nintendo. In the game, players can catch the oarfish.