Giant Oarfish: The legendary sea serpent
Because of its long, thin body, strange-looking face, and mysterious behavior, the Oarfish has been a subject of legends and superstitions. Could oarfishes be omens of incoming earthquakes? Or are the incidents of people finding them ashore days before an earthquake just a coincidence?
The giant oarfish partially inspired the origin of legends of the sea serpent. Because of its long body and the rare oarfish sightings, sailors who didn't know what an oarfish was, mistaken the fish as sea serpents from myths and legends.
Oarfish Myths: The Sea Serpent
Oarfishes are rarely seen on the surface and only come up when lost, injured, dying, or dead.
Because of the rare sightings, people associate these deep-dwelling creatures as mythological Sea Serpents predictors of incoming devastating disasters.
In Japanese mythology, the Oarfish is called "Ryugu No Tsukai", meaning "The Messenger of the Beautiful Palace at the bottom of the ocean" (in a fantasy world).
Giant Oarfish Facts
Oarfishes are not mythical sea creatures, but they are no less astonishing than that. The giant oarfish is the world's longest bony fish in the ocean. An average adult oarfish can grow up to 3 meters (9.8 feet). The longest giant oarfish recorded measured up to 11 meters (36 feet) in length!
Oarfishes do not swim like how eels do. They use their dorsal fins to propel underwater and stay vertically upright when feeding. They feed on krill, planktons, squid, and crustaceans while remaining completely still to not attract predators.
Little is known on the behavior of live oarfishes because they frequent on depths of 200 meters (656 feet) to 1 000 meters (3,280 feet) at tropical and temperate waters. They are either dead or dying when found ashore.
The oarfish is not a threat to humans; they don't even have real teeth.
Encounters of live oarfish underwater are very rare. It wasn't until 2001 that the US Navy caught the first video of a live oarfish in situ. The oarfish is not commercially caught for food because their meat is gelatinous and inedible.
Oarfish and Earthquakes
Can oarfishes predict an earthquake? It has been an on-going debate that these deep sea creatures can feel earthquakes before humans and flee to the surface for safety.
Before the magnitude nine earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku, Japan in 2011, about 20 oarfishes was found stranded on the beaches and coastlines of Tohoku.
In the Philippines, the last sighting of an oarfish before an earthquake was at Surigao city last February 8, 2017. Two days after the oarfish sighting, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the city and its nearby provinces.
There have been instances and reports of oarfishes coming to shore days before an earthquake in Japan, Philippines, California, Mexico, etc. but they could just be coincidental.
Deep Sea Fishes and earthquakes
A specialist in ecological seismology, Kiyoshi Wadatsumi, stated in an article on Japan Times that "deep-sea fishes living near the ocean floor are more sensitive to the movements of active faults". Whether or not this proves that oarfishes can predict future earthquakes, it isn't the first time researchers suggested the connection between animal behavior and incoming natural disasters.
But So far, predicting earthquakes remains impossible. There are no instruments or tools invented to accurately tell the exact time, date, location, and magnitude of an incoming earthquake. So it also remains a mystery if oarfishes can sense an approaching earthquake.
Giant Oarfish Researches and References
All pictures used for this article are from Wikimedia Commons where some are from Haringkoning riemvis.
If you want to know more about Giant Oarfish, take a look at some of our references below.
- Oarfish Messenger of the sea dragon palace
- Regalecus glesne
- Giant oarfish
- Can the Giant Oarfish Predict Earthquakes?
- Can Oarfish Predict Earthquakes?
- In the know
Speaking about Oarfish, How deep can they go?
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