It may look like a mythological sea monster, but this 36-foot-long creature is the real deal. They’re called oarfish and they get their name from their elongated bodies.
The oarfish has inspired Japanese folklore, that sees it as a sea serpent that can predict earthquakes and tsunamis. It can’t, but it can survive being cut in half. In fact, it self-amputates up to 75% of its body. It is thought that ditching more than half of its body helps the oarfish escape from predators, which is fine since all of its organs are stored in its abdomen anyway. Another trait that helps the oarfish evade predators is its layer of guanine molecules, which gives its body a beautiful shimmer that serves to confuse other sea creatures.
Oarfish have a worldwide range and are found in all temperate to tropical waters. But don’t panic, human encounters with live oarfish are rare.
As oarfish live very deep in the water (up to 3,300 ft) very little is known about them. As well as being up to 36-foot-long, they are incredibly heavy, weighing up to 600lbs. They live solitary lifestyles. There’s very little footage of a living oarfish.
The first known video footage was captured in 2001. This footage dispelled the long believed myth that the fish propels itself with its fins. One final known fact is that their fertilized eggs float up near the surface of the water, where they then hatch. Baby oarfish stay near the surface of the water for a short while, and once they descend they stay at the depths of the ocean.
The first recorded human encounter with living and healthy oarfish only occurred in 2016, in an episode of Animal Planet. In this episode, Jeremy Wade dived deep into the water and was able to swim so close to an oarfish that the managed to touch one.