Every time one washes ashore, it makes the news.
A dead oarfish with a belly full of krill washed up on Santa Catalina Island this week, marking a rare sighting of the deep-sea creature and the largest to appear on the island in years, experts say.
The marine biologist who received the body for dissection said it weighed from 150 to 200 pounds and was about 24 feet long when it was alive. Over at Southern Fried Science blog, Dr. Misty Paig-Tran, Assistant Professor at California State University Fullerton, give us more on the oarfish and dispels some of the media myths about this odd looking creature that some mistake for a “sea serpent”.
It’s huge, silvery, and looks like a dragon. Myths about this fish are old and salty. However, there has been a ton of misinformation printed about this fish and now it’s my chance to set some things straight. So I will try to rectify this now.
Along with some exaggerations about size, Dr. Paig-Tran also debunks the idea that they come ashore dead in relation to eating plastic, earthquakes, Fukushima radiation, or naval testing. All these causes are used in scary media outlets to make the fish find more dramatic. It’s just a dead fish, not a harbinger of doom.
The oarfish is not a strong swimmer and is at the mercy of changing currents that might bring it to shore.
However, she did note something really weird about the fish I didn’t know. Check this out:
Oarfish can drop the end of their tail like a lizard does. Their vertebrae just breaks off right down the center. Snap. Tail gone. When and why they do this is not known. Most of the fish I have looked at have had a portion of their tail missing. The bone is totally exposed and there is evidence of healing. Some reports have stated that they even break apart in people’s hands.
It’s always wise to seek out qualified expert scientists to talk about animals instead of the writer wildly speculating and repeating legends and folklore. See, you’ve learned something today.