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It took more than a dozen people to haul the 18-foot-long oarfish to shore.
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Catalina Island Marine Institute / WENN.com / Newscom
Oarfish typically live up to 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean but move closer to the surface when sick or injured.
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Mark Bussey / AP Images
Sea Monsters in California?
Some scientists think oarfish may be one of the sea monsters that sailors feared for centuries

By Laura Leigh Davidson | for  

Just in time for Halloween, something scary has washed up on the shores of California. The dead bodies of two giant “sea serpents” shocked beachgoers along the west coast. Could sea monsters be real?

For centuries, sailors have told stories of giant snake-like creatures that wrap themselves around ships and devour their crews. Many seafaring people even claimed to have seen these terrifying creatures themselves. But these deep-sea beasts don’t really exist, right?

The devouring of ships’ crews is probably an exaggeration, but myths about sea serpents may actually be based on a real—and rare—fish. They’re called oarfish, and two of them recently washed ashore in Southern California.

SEA-SERPENT SCARE

Both beasties were already dead when they were discovered. On October 18, a 14-foot oarfish carcass (dead body) washed up on the beach in Oceanside, in northern San Diego County.

Third-grader Alexandria Boyle was with her class on a beach trip when the creature was found.

“I was thinking, ‘I have no idea what that is.’ [It] looks like a snake, but it kind of looks like a giant eel,” Alexandria said.

A snorkeler off the coast of Catalina Island had discovered another oarfish on October 13. It took more than a dozen people to drag that massive 18-foot fish to shore.

BIGGEST BONY FISH

Oarfish can grow to be up to 50 feet long, and are the largest bony fish in the world, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. A bony fish is one whose skeleton is made of bone. Other big fish, like sharks, have skeletons made of cartilage, which is a flexible, spongy tissue.

The silver-bodied, red-headed creatures typically live at depths of up to 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. They are not strong swimmers and rarely venture to shallow waters. Experts say oarfish come to the surface only when they are injured or dying.

Scientists who have studied the 14-foot oarfish said it was injured. The carcass had multiple holes that seemed to be shark bites.

The 18-foot oarfish appeared to have been healthy, however. Scientists aren’t completely certain what killed either fish. Tissue samples and organs from both oarfish have been sent to scientists around the world for analysis. Experts will continue to investigate the cause of death for these two rare, monstrous-looking creatures.



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