Fish That’s Could Be the ‘Origin of Some Sea Monster Myths’ Washes Up on New Zealand Shore…Then Disappears

A rare oarfish washed up on the shore of a New Zealand beach just long enough for scientists to take samples for examination before it disappeared.

“This Oarfish washed up on Aramoana Spit at the entrance to Otago Harbour this morning,” the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre and Aquarium said in a Facebook post last Thursday. “It is 3-metres long but they can apparently reach lengths over 8 m. Described as long-distance ocean drifters, they are usually found hanging in vertical position in the upper 300 m of the water column. It has been claimed that specimens larger than 1.5m shorten their length by self-amputation (Tyson Roberts). Healthy Oarfish are known to wash up on beaches and are sometimes found near the water surface — so may be the origin of some ‘sea monster’ myths.”

By early this week, the oarfish could no longer be found. David Agnew, who works for the Department of Conservation, told the Otago Daily Times it could have washed away or was taken by someone. If it was taken, he added a warning that it probably shouldn’t be eaten.

”You’d be taking a chance,” he told the online newspaper.

Tessa Mills with the University of Otago New Zealand Marine Studies Centre added that it probably wouldn’t be a tasty fish.

”[I]t would have been quite gelatinous,” she told the Otago Daily Times.

The marine center was not able to take the fish completely for analysis due to collection and storage issues, but some samples, including reproductive organs and muscle, liver and gut tissues were taken.

“It had a big feed of krill before it died,” Emma Burns, a curator for the Otago Museum, told the Daily Times.

Oarfish are so rare and when they are seen, they’re usually dead, like this one in New Zealand. But last year a kayaker in Baja captured footage of a live oarfish swimming in shallow water. Check out the video:

(H/T: Huffington Post)

Front page image via NOAA/Wikimedia Commons.