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Home > Ocean > Life in the Deep > Giant Oarfish

Largest Bony Fish: Giant Oarfish
Regalecus glesne

First Ever Video Captured of Live Giant Oarfish
April 7, 2010

Scientists have captured for the first time ever video footage of a live, rarely seen, giant deep sea fish known as the oarfish. While exploring in the Gulf of Mexico using ROV technology, scientists observed what first appeared to be a pipe hanging vertically in the water column. When they zoomed in with the camera it was clear that the long, silvery object was not a pipe, but the elusive oarfish.

The giant oarfish has only rarely been seen alive. Most often they have been discovered swimming at or near the surface where they are dying, or dead. Growing up to 17 meters long, the oarfish is a true bony fish, of the class Osteichthyes, and is currently the largest known bony fish. The record for biggest fish is held by the Whale shark, but it is not a true bony fish. Although the oarfish can grow to impressive lengths, it is a very slender fish.

Oar fish videoSee the first video captured of a live Giant Oarfish

Photo of giant oar fishScientists who have observed or captured this fish report that its long, slender body gives it a snake-like appearance, which could account for many ancient legends of giant sea serpents. The oarfish is not a ferocious, man-eating sea serpent, however. On the few occasions this fish has been sighted it appears very docile. Biologists aren't really sure what it eats, but from examining the mouth and jaws of this species, it appears it may eat other small fish.

From the video of the oarfish you can see the interesting swimming habit of this species; it hangs its body vertically and swims up and down in the water column by undulating its incredibly long dorsal fin. This particular specimen captured in the video swam away from the camera on the ROV by moving its body downward, tail first very rapidly. Professor Benfield, the scientist who observed and captured the specimen on video, estimates this particular fish to be between 5m and 10 long. The video was taken at about 1500 meters in what is known as the mesopelagic zone.

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