Marine biologists at Louisiana State University have released the first ever video of a living and healthy giant oarfish, also known as king of herrings, in its natural deep sea habitat.
The giant oarfish, Regalecus glesne (family: Regalecidae), is the longest bony fish. It may reach up 15 meters (49 feet).
Because they live in deep sea, observations of them in the wild are rare. It is believed that the serpent-like creatures, like the giant squid, are behind myths and legends by ancient sailors about sea monsters, serpents and dragons that attack ships and sailors at sea.
The video footage was released this week along with four other videos and a scientific publication in which authors Benfield et al., report the sightings in a paper tilted: "Five in situ observations of live oarfish Regalecus glesne (Regalecidae) by remotely operated vehicles in the oceanic waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico." The paper was published on 5 June, 2013, in the Journal of Fish Biology.
The video footage was originally captured in 2011 using a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The individual in this video is thought to be about 8 feet long. According to Deep Sea News, the ROV made a total of five video observations between 2008 and 2011 at depths between 38.7 meters to 492.7 meters (127-1616 feet)
Pete Thomas Outdoors reports that the ROV was operated by Mako Technologies for Hornbeck Offshore Services' SERPENT project. The vehicle was conducting a sea floor and water column survey when the oarfish came into camera view.
Deep Sea News reports the authors said that "absence of an immediate flight response by these individuals to the ROV supports [the] hypothesis that R. glesne has few natural predators."
The SERPENT project (Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology) is the result of collaboration between researchers and the oil and gas industry. The industry provides researchers with access to industry data and facilities.
Giant Oarfish (Regalecus glesne), found on the shore of the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, California. This specimen was 23 ft (7.0 m) long and weighed 300 lb (140 kg).
Scientists know very little about the oarfish because they live in deep oceans. The few specimens biologists have studied were dead or dying bodies washed ashore. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1808, a 56-foot monster washed ashore in Scotland. A 22-foot specimen appeared in Newport Beach, California, in 1901.
A dead specimen washed ashore last October off Cabo San Lucas Beach, according to GrindTv.
In 2006, a nearly-dead individual surfaced in a cove at Santa Catalina Island in Southern California.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Harbormaster Doug Odin swam in snorkeling gear with the fish before it died. He described it as "metallic silver with bright blue-brown spots and splotches, along with its amazing pinkish-red full-length dorsal fin."
He said the fish appeared to be blind although it had large saucer-shaped eyes.
In 2001, a group of US Navy personnel spotted and filmed an oarfish during inspection of a buoy in the Bahamas.
The creature was first described by Norwegian biologist Peter Ascanius in 1772.