The dead “sea monster’ spotted off the coast of Southern California on Sunday is actually an oarfish, a deepwater fish species that can reach a length of 55 feet (17 meters).
The 18-foot-long carcass was sighted by Jasmine Santana, a marine science instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI), while snorkeling in during a staff trip in Toyon Bay at Santa Catalina Island. Santana alerted her colleagues, who helped her bring the unusual creature ashore.
“We’ve never seen a fish this big,” Mark Waddington of CIMI was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “The last oarfish we saw was three feet long.”
The crew of sailing training ship Tole Mour with Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors holding an 18-foot-long oarfish on Santa Catalina Island, California on Sunday October 13, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute.
After posing for pictures with the oarfish, the organization sent tissue samples and video to biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The carcass is currently on display for students studying at CIMI but will soon be buried until it decomposes. Its skeleton will be eventually reassembled for exhibit, according to Waddington, who is the captain of CIMI’s sailboat, the Tole Mour.
Diving to depths greater than 3,000 feet, oarfish are most often seen coming into shallow waters to die or washed up dead on beaches. Scientists believe creature, which sports dorsal fins that run the length of its back, is likely responsible for sea serpent legends.
The oarfish can reach lengths of 55 feet (17 meters), making it the world’s longest bony fish. It is infrequently caught by fishermen, but in 2010 researchers using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the Gulf of Mexico filmed a oarfish alive in the wild for the first time.
United States military personnel holding a 23-foot oarfish found washed up near San Diego, California in September 1996.
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