Giant Oarfish


The Giant Oarfish can be described as a type of large oarfish that lives mostly in the deep parts of the ocean in various areas of the world. It is seldom noticed on the surface level. The shy and elusive nature of the Giant Oarfish gave it the reputation of being a rare species at one point of time. Most of the specimens of Giant Oarfish that were obtained by fishermen and scientists were either dead or critically injured. These fishes hardly ever interact with humans and for this reason scientists and researchers have little understanding of them. Giant Oarfish is considered to be the largest surviving bony fish on this planet. It is also known by other names such as Pacific oarfish, king of herrings, streamer fish and ribbon fish. 

Giant Oarfish Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Vertebrata

Order: Lampriformes

Family:  Regalecidae

Genus: Regalecus

Species: R. glesne

Scientific Name: Regalecus glesne

Physical Description

Here is a look at the physical description of these fishes.

Size: On an average, the Giant Oarfish grows up to a length of 3 meter or 9.8 feet.

Weight: The adult specimens often reach up to a weight of 270 kg.

Head: The head is small and has a somewhat rounded shape.

Body: These fishes have a ribbon-like slender body which is laterally thin and devoid of scales.

Fins: There is a dorsal fin that stretches across its whole length from the tail tip to its eyes. It has got thick pectoral fins and long pelvic fins with only one ray in them.

Mouth: The Giant Oarfish have got protrusile jaws that are devoid of any teeth. They have 40 to 58 gill rakers that enable them to capture tiny organisms and eat them.

Lifespan

As of yet, there is no data about the exact longevity of these fishes.

Distribution and Habitat

They are usually found in the mesopelagic layer of the open oceans across the world which is just under the main pelagic zone. Most of these fishes are found in the temperate zones and the tropical waters. Biologists are yet to find out if there are any regional subspecies of these fishes.

Behavior

A lot of people think that the giant oarfish is a dangerous creature mainly due to their size, but it is simply not true. They tend to be shy, secretive and elusive and scientists have very little idea about them due to their mysterious nature. They mostly swim in vertical position with the help of their fins in mesopelagic layer. It is believed that the giant oarfish mostly lives a rather solitary life.

Diet

The giant oarfish is very choosy when it comes to their feeding tendencies. They typically eat zooplankton, krill and other types of small crustaceans. They also love to eat shrimps, squids, jellyfishes and other types of small fishes.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

There is very little information regarding the reproductive and mating behavior of these fishes. It is believed by most scientists that they lay large pelagic eggs through broadcast spawning. The eggs are typically between 2 mm to 6 mm in their diameter. They float close to the surface of the water for about 3 weeks after which they hatch. The larvae often float on the surface. The spawning takes place between the months of July and December. Once the eggs hatch, the embryos transform into larvae quickly. The juveniles have got distinct long rays of pelvic and dorsal fins. After the young fishes turn into adults, they start living a secluded and solitary life.

Adaptations

Here is a look at the adaptations of the giant oarfish.

  • The giant oarfish has a long slender body that enables them to move and glide easily in water without any resistance.
  • The long dorsal fins enable them to propel quickly through water which allows them to descend vertically when they are swimming.
  • The fin rays near the head are long enough to form a striking bright red crest. It is believed that it works as a type of defense mechanism for scaring off the predators.
  • Most of its inner organs are located close to the head. This means that even if they lose some of their body close to the tail, it is still able to survive.

Predators

While there is very little understanding of the natural predators preying on the giant oarfish, there have been some cases where specimens attacked by lancetfish and different types of sharks have been found dead on ocean shores.

Conservation Status

At one time, the giant oarfish was considered to be a rare creature as it was difficult to spot one. However, multiple sightings of giant oarfish in recent years have led scientists to come to a different conclusion. IUCN 3.1 has therefore enlisted giant oarfish under Least Concern or ‘LC’ category.

Interesting Facts

Check out some interesting facts about the giant oarfish.

  • The size of the largest giant oarfish is about 11 meters.
  • The pectoral fins have a stubby structure and the pelvic fins appear as long and single-rayed. They look like an oar that widens close to the tip.
  • Numerous legends and folklores have been linked with this fish. The Japanese people consider them to be “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace”, saying that a forthcoming earthquake is indicated when multiple fishes wash up on the shore.
  • The large size of these fishes together with an undulating pattern of swimming is believed to be the cause of many people associating them with the tales of sea serpents.
  • Even though some people have made attempts to eat this fish, it is reported that they are not tasty at all.

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