Earlier this week, two (2) co-workers who were walking along the beach came across a giant deep-sea fish who had somehow managed to make its way onto the shores of Catalina Island.
Amy Catalano, a conservation coordinator for the nonprofit Catalina Island Conservancy and one of the two (2) people responsible for discovering the fish gave a statement explaining just how surreal the experience has been for her: “It was amazing, it felt like a movie prop; it looked make-believe almost”.
The deep-sea monstrosity has a carcass of about 13.5 feet (4 meters) long, unusually large ovaries that are 7 feet (2 meters) long and weigh 24 pounds (11 kilograms), and was identified as being an oarfish, a species rarely seen by people.
Unfortunately, scientists inform that this is not the first oarfish to wash up on land by a long shot. Another specimen was found on the shores of Catalina Island just a year and a half ago, in October 2013. The old fish was even bigger, 18 feet (5.5 meters) long.
And John Lundberg, curator of ichthyology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, shares that many other specimens have washed up on the shires of San Diego and Baja California (Mexico).
Not much is known in the scientific community about the wondrous deep-sea oarfish, and experts can not say with 100 percent (100%) certainty why they’ve developed a habit of crawling out of the water, however there is one popular theory.
Lundberg suggests that the reason behind their actions is most likely that they’re sick. Either that, or some other predator is disturbing them. He goes on to add a third, less likely scenario, in which the oarfish swim to the surface because of old age. One thing’s for sure however, once they do reach the surface they tend to die.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seems to back up Lundberg’s theories, as their website states that oarfish swim to the surface only when they are either injured or dying.
The specimen found earlier this week is set to be examined by various experts, in hope of helping researchers better understand the creatures. Misty Paig-Tran, an assistant professor of biology at California State University in Fullerton (CSUF) will be analyzing the fish’s bone structure as well as trying to document how it feeds. So far she has called its bone structure “jelly-like”.
Other unnamed experts will be looking at the creature’s gills and muscle tissue, and Kristy Forsgren, physiologist at California State University, will be examining the specimen’s ovaries.
Forsgren is already making some progress, sending an informative email to Live Science, saying that the team is counting the number of developing eggs within the ovary for now, but that they would also like to approximate the fish’s fecundity, and eventually analyze the ovarian tissue in order to determine how mature its reproductive system is.
Rick Feeney, collections manager at the ichthyology department at the National History Museum of Los Angeles, is another scientist interested in various aspects of the fish’s anatomy, but what intrigues him most of all is how the creature behaves in its natural habitat.
He says that the little that scientists currently know informs that oarfish orient themselves vertically and keep their fins spread out when they’re out in the open ocean. He compares it, fittingly, to an alien being rising out from the deep-sea.
Image Source: nbcnews.com