If you're on social media, it's likely that your newsfeed has once been bombarded with stories about the oarfish. Although sightings of this mysterious creature are rare, we have seen an unprecedented number of oarfish wash up on beaches and out of the water. But what is so fascinating about this unusual deep-sea dweller?
Description and Appearance
The oarfish is a type of fish that gets its name from its long, shiny body. The body can grow to be four feet in length, but they usually average out to around ten feet. These creatures are rare and oddly enough deep-sea fishermen usually catch them by accident! They're difficult to locate because their very dark brown scales allow them to blend into the dark oceans. The oarfish's scales are one of the only ways that scientists have been able to study the species.
The average oarfish has shiny silver, blue, or purple on its dorsal side while its ventral side is lighter in color. This coloring helps the fish merge with the light coming from above and the dark depths of the ocean. They sometimes dive as deep as 3,000 feet, but they tend to stay around 600 feet below sea level.
The oarfish's most noticeable feature is its long ribbon-like body that can grow up to fifty feet in length! The dorsal fin runs along almost the entire length of their bodies and they don't have a caudal fin, which is what makes them so unusually shaped. The dorsal fin can sometimes be bioluminescent and scientists think that it allows the oarfish to communicate with each other when in deep waters.
However, the only thing Gage Beasley’s Oarfish Soft Stuffed Plush Toy can communicate with is you—especially when you’re about to doze to sleep. They might be serpents of the sea, but this oarfish is one of your better bedside friends!
Gage Beasley’s Oarfish Stuffed Plush Toy
The oarfish's mouth sits at the bottom of their head which makes them look like they're perpetually upside-down. This positioning allows them to find food on deeper floors of the ocean. Their mouths are also small, shaped almost like a vacuum cleaner, and contain no teeth! Their stomachs make up half of their body length, but they only eat tiny organisms like krill, plankton, and small shrimp.
Oarfish are opportunistic feeders, which means they eat whatever is available to them at the time. They prefer to dine on crustaceans but will also eat worms, jellyfish, and other eel-like creatures. When food is scarce, they can live for months without eating anything at all!
Very little is known about oarfish reproduction. However, it is thought that they reproduce by spawning thousands of larval fish which grow quickly and change form over the course of a few weeks!
Distribution and Conservation Status
The oarfish is a very mysterious and seldom-seen creature. There's been so much speculation about these fish from scientists, but not nearly as much research has been done on them as there should have been. We do know that their population is declining rapidly, which makes them very vulnerable to extinction in the near future.
Species in the Regalecidae family (to which oarfish belong) usually give birth to live young and we aren't entirely sure how oarfish reproduce either. Scientists think that they lay their eggs in deep waters and tend to them until they hatch, but there's no way of knowing for sure.
Most oarfish species are not labeled as endangered or threatened, but their numbers are declining rapidly. Since the fish is so elusive and often caught accidentally by deep-sea fishermen, it's difficult to know exactly how much population loss there has been. Scientists have observed that oarfish are being caught at a higher rate than ever before, which could be a sign that their population is declining.
Although the oarfish thrives in oceanic temperatures (45°F - 86°F), these creatures can be found everywhere from Baja California to Hawaii and even Japan. They like warm water, but not hot water. Oarfish can be found beneath the surface of oceans near reefs or seamounts, but sightings have occurred in lagoons and even freshwater rivers.
The oarfish are so rarely seen that it's difficult to predict what the future will hold for them, but scientists are working hard to learn more about their population numbers and behaviors. We all hope that in protecting the oarfish we can also protect other deep-sea creatures.
Did you know about the oarfish before reading this article? The animal kingdom often has strange and fascinating creatures to discover, but they're difficult to find! Most of these animals spend their lives in deep-sea habitats that are incredibly hard for us to explore. We know so little about the oarfish but hopefully, as we learn more, we can help protect this mysterious animal.