The rare, ribbon-shaped sea creature was far from home when it washed ashore in Malibu this week.
Darrell Rae was on a Sunday morning stroll on Malibu Colony beach when he spotted the 12-foot-long silvery fish with a brilliant red mane and scarlet dorsal fin floundering in the water a few dozen feet from the shore.
"I grew up on the beaches and I had never seen or even heard of anything like it," he said. "I knew it had to be something that came from far away and deep in the ocean."
When Rae returned with his camera, the creature had washed ashore, dead. Half a dozen people were gawking at the long, thin leviathan, wondering if it might be some kind of eel.
But the first to correctly identify the serpentine creature was an 8-year-old boy who recognized it from school and strode up beside the adults to inform them: It's an oarfish.
"He knew exactly what it was," Rae said. "He spoke with conviction about this fish that none of the adults even had a clue about."
Biologists with the California Wildlife Center arrived and corroborated the boy's assessment: It was indeed an oarfish, a species rarely seen this far from the deep sea, where it is believed to reign as the longest bony fish in the ocean.
Oarfish are largely a mystery to scientists, but they are typically found 700 to 3,000 feet beneath the surface in tropical and temperate waters, where they feed on small squid and krill.
"The fact that it was close to shore at all is unusual," said Cynthia Reyes, director of the California Wildlife Center.
After taking tissue samples, the Malibu center offered the specimen to the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, which took custody of it Tuesday.
Bearing a closer resemblance to the Loch Ness Monster than a perch or mackerel, the oarfish can grow to more than 30 feet in length and is credited with spawning many of the sea serpent legends told by sailors over the years.
Because the fish found Sunday is shorter in length than other discoveries, scientists believe it is a juvenile. But they are eager to learn what it last ate and how it died.
Oarfish sightings have been documented as early as 1808, when a 56-foot serpent-like creature washed ashore in Scotland. In 1901, a 22-foot oarfish drifted onto the sand in Newport Beach (Orange County), stoking years of sea monster tales.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/12/03/MNBG1GLHKB.DTL#ixzz17COHbxgy
Click to view image: 'c24889fe3682-baoarfish1204_g_sfcg1291429541.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|