California 'sea serpents' draw gawkers

2013-10-22 14:35
A marine science instructor snorkelling off the Southern California coast spotted the silvery carcass of the 5m long, serpent-like oarfish. (Catalina Island Marine Institute, AP)

A marine science instructor snorkelling off the Southern California coast spotted the silvery carcass of the 5m long, serpent-like oarfish. (Catalina Island Marine Institute, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles - The silvery carcasses of two giant oarfish were discovered along the Southern California coast last week, baffling scientists and gaining a growing online following who gawked at the bony, snake-like creatures.

A 4.3m oarfish washed up on a beach in the San Diego County coastal city of Oceanside last Friday. Several days earlier, a snorkeler found the carcass of an oarfish off Catalina Island and dragged it to shore with some help.

The rarely seen deep-sea dwellers, which can grow to more than 15m, may be the inspiration of sea monsters found in literature and throughout history.

Here's a closer look at the oarfish:

How often do they venture close to shore?


Oarfish beach themselves around the world. Every so often, one wanders to the Southern California coast.

How did the two oarfish die?

While necropsies - the animal version of an autopsy - were done on the oarfish, the cause of death remains unknown. Scientists said the deaths may forever remain a mystery. The smaller oarfish appeared to be in good health before it died and there were no signs of shark bites.

Oarfish are thought to be poor swimmers, so maybe the ones found last week got caught in a current that pushed them to coastal waters, marine experts said.

"If they get disoriented and into the surf zone, they'll probably have trouble manoeuvring back out to sea," said Phil Hastings, curator of the marine vertebrate collection at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Why is so little known about oarfish?

Oarfish tend to remain quiet in the deep ocean, luring smaller fish toward them.

Since they are found in tropical waters 900m deep, scientists get few opportunities to study them. The dead oarfish that float ashore don't tell the whole story. It's like trying to study deer killed on the road, said Milton Love, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"You wouldn't know much about deer based on road kill," he said.

What's next?


Scientists have dissected the oarfish, preserved some tissue and organs, and planned to send samples to researchers around the world.
Read more on:    marine life

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.