After a gigantic eyeball washed ashore in Ft. Lauderdale last week (likely belonging to a swordfish) this week the ocean reminded us again what mysteries lurk in the deep when a 15 foot oarfish washed up on the Baja Peninsula.
By oarfish standards, though, 15 feet is scrawny. This little known and poorly understood creature has been documented to reach 36 feet in length making it the longest bony fish known to man. Reports of specimens topping 50 feet in length are not uncommon, and the fish is a likely inspiration for tales of sea serpents in centuries past. Oarfish live in tropical and temperate waters worldwide at depths of up to 3,300 feet, drifting in open ocean currents and feeding on fish, crustaceans and squid, but they are almost never seen or caught alive and little is known about their behavior.
Residents of Cabo San Lucas who struggled but failed to save the fish, were shocked to find it swimming in their waters, as were a group of Navy Seals who came upon a 23 foot oarfish during training in Coronado, California in 1996 (below).
Apart from its length, oarfish are also notable for the brilliant red mane which crowns its head as well a dorsal fin that starts between its eyes and runs the length of its body.
The oarfish is the longest bony fish in the world -- there have even been some reports of fish up to 50 feet long (and weighing up to 600 pounds)! They are so long that many believe that these fish are the cause of some early tales of sea serpents and sea monsters. Because of its sinuous body, it is occasionally called the ribbonfish.