Scientists Thrilled to Be Dissecting an Oarfish

Written by on October 29, 2013 in Fish, Marine Life

Two giant oarfish recently washed up on California beaches. The rare finding happening twice in one week led to lots of speculation about the reason for the strandings and the implications it might have for us. Some wondered if the oarfish are sick while others wondered if they were predicting an earthquake.

Dissecting the oarfish in the necropsy suite of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Dissecting the oarfish in the necropsy suite of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Photo credit: NOAA.

Scientists are taking this opportunity to learn everything they can from these giant fish. In the necropsy suite of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, scientists from NOAA and other universities gathered to dissect one.

They found that she was pregnant and healthy, she had a bite from a cookie cutter shark, and her stomach was empty. The cause of death is still unknown. Tissue samples are being preserved and sent around the world for further study. Researchers still hope to learn what oarfish eat and where they fit on the food chain, how they evolved and what their closest living relatives are. To learn more about the dissection, listen to the podcast from On the Line!

Here you can see the reddish dorsal fin, which runs all the way down the animals body.

Here you can see the reddish dorsal fin, which runs all the way down the animals body. Photo credit: NOAA.

Facts about oarfish:

Here's what a live oarfish would look like. Oarfish model at Ozeaneum in Stralsund, Germany.

Here’s what a live oarfish would look like. Oarfish model at Ozeaneum in Stralsund, Germany. Photo credit: mueritz via photopin cc.

The following segment from ABC News is a great summary of the recent oarfish strandings and necropsy with Dr. Phil Hastings from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Dr. Hastings reminds us that there is no credible scientific evidence that suggests oarfish could predict earthquakes, nor do the fish have any sensory systems that would allow them to detect quakes. Furthermore, they live far from shore and wouldn’t be interacting with fault lines. Watch the whole segment for more detail.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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