The longest known bony fish alive today
The giant oarfish can grow to a length of 56 feet. It is seldom seen because it lives in deep ocean waters (to a depth of over 3,000 feet) and is rarely found in surface waters or near shore. Recently though two dead specimens were found just off the coast of southern California. It is not known whether this was just a coincidence or whether we are witnessing a die-off of the legendary fish. For its great length, the giant oarfish is amazingly thin, almost like a long ribbon. It weighs about 150 pounds. The dorsal fin runs the entire length of the body, almost like a fringe. The pelvic fin is almost as long, but not as wide. The caudal or tail fin is almost vestigial. The giant oarfish is believed to reside in temperate and tropical ocean waters worldwide, but since sightings are so rare, this cannot be confirmed. It appears that the giant oarfish feeds primarily on zooplankton and tiny shrimp, but it also eats small fish, jellyfish, and baby squid. Predators probably include sharks and sperm whales and possibly giant squid. The female adult releases large numbers of brightly colored buoyant eggs into the water column, where they are hopefully fertilized. The larva, which are highly active, are found on or just below the surface of the water, while the adults reside much further below. The occasional giant oarfish that washed ashore dead or dying probably was a source of many of the legends about sea serpents. It certainly bears little superficial resemblance to traditional bony fish.