Extremely Rare Giant Oarfish Caught on Camera in Gulf of Mexico

The giant oarfish Regalecus glesne has been caught on film in the deep waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Top: Regalecus glesne observed on February 16, 2009 in the Gulf of Mexico (M. C. Benfield et al). Bottom: Navy SEALs display a 23-foot giant oarfish found in 1996 on the beach in California (DeeDee Van Wormer)

Top: Regalecus glesne observed on February 16, 2009 in the Gulf of Mexico (M. C. Benfield et al). Bottom: Navy SEALs display a 23-foot giant oarfish found in 1996 on the beach in California (DeeDee Van Wormer)

The giant oarfish, also known as the king of the herring, Pacific oarfish, ribbon-fish, and streamer fish, was originally described by the Norwegian biologist Peter Ascanius in 1772.

Regalecus glesne is the longest bony fish alive. It can reach a length of over 50 feet and weigh as much as 600 pounds.

The generic name Regalecus is derived from the latin word regalis, meaning ‘royal.’ The origin of the oarfish name is unknown, but may refer to the oar-shaped body or the long, oar-like pelvic fins.

Regalecus glesne is a pelagic species found living at great depths to 3,280 feet (1 km), but more typically to depths of 656 feet (0.2 km) throughout the deep seas of the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

In a paper published online June 5, 2013 in the Journal of Fish Biology, marine biologists from Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at the Louisiana State University have reported five new observations of the giant oarfish.

Regalecus glesne were observed between 2008 and 2011 at depths from within the epipelagic and mesopelagic zones,” the scientists wrote.

“These observations include the deepest verified record of Regalecus glesne (463 – 492  m) and the first record of an arthropod ectoparasite (isopod).”

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Bibliographic information: M. C. Benfield et al. Five in situ observations of live oarfish Regalecus glesne (Regalecidae) by remotely operated vehicles in the oceanic waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Fish Biology, article published online June 5, 2013; doi: 10.1111/jfb.12144