Crazy Ocean Discovery: 18-Foot Serpent-Like Fish

Snorkeler spots oarfish carcass near California's Catalina Island

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Oct 15, 2013 3:23 PM CDT | Updated Oct 15, 2013 3:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted something out of a fantasy novel: the silvery carcass of an 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish. Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute needed more than 15 helpers to drag the giant sea creature to shore over the weekend. Staffers at the institute are calling it the discovery of a lifetime. "We've never seen a fish this big," says the captain of CIMI's training ship. "The last oarfish we saw was 3 feet long."

Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings are rare, and they are largely unstudied. The obscure fish apparently died of natural causes. Tissue samples and video footage were sent to be studied by biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It will be buried in the sand until it decomposes, and then its skeleton will be reconstituted for display. Oarfish can actually reach 50 feet in length and are thought to be responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history. (Click to read about the discovery of a fossilized mosquito that still has blood.)

This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute shows helpers holding the 18-foot-long oarfish found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif.
This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute shows helpers holding the 18-foot-long oarfish found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif.   (HONS)
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