Although most people know that land animals have an uncanny sixth sense for detecting danger (just take any family dog whose ears perk up when something’s not quite right), it’s tougher to tell if ocean dwellers are the same way. After all, we don’t know nearly as much about them, and we obviously don’t encounter them as frequently. But some strange fish in the Philippines could change all that…
Both before and after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake tore through the island of Mindanao, residents found the bodies of several odd creatures that had washed up onshore. These beasts usually dwelled hundreds of feet beneath the surface of the ocean, where you’d think they’d be safer during a seismic event. So, what were they doing so close to land? And could it be a sign of scarier things to come?
When the island of Mindanao in the Philippines was devastated by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake in February 2017, the residents were left to sift through the damage. People lost their homes and their businesses, and it was going to be a huge effort to get them back on their feet again.
Oddly enough, though, one of the more frightening discoveries came on the beaches. There, the bodies of several odd creatures that usually inhabit the deepest parts of the ocean were found both before and after the disaster.
These bodies belonged to the same elusive fish that were also discovered just before the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, Chile, and Haiti. Was it a coincidence that these sea creatures mysteriously arrived just before massive natural disasters?
These odd fish normally dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean and are rarely seen by humans. This photograph, for instance, had to be taken by a remote-controlled submersible that was more than 1,000 feet below the surface of the water. So, what are they exactly? And why do they show up during earthquakes?
Though odd, they’re a type of sea creature called an oarfish. They’re defined by their narrow, elongated bodies and are truly one of the most unique-looking marine animals. Yet, because they spend much of their time in the deepest parts of ocean, we rarely get a chance to see them so close… until now.
Because of their startling appearance, oarfish are the source of many sea serpent tales. In fact, these fish are known as “messengers from the sea god’s palace” in Japan. Other places around the world have their own names for oarfish as well.
The western Pacific island of Palau refers to the creatures as “rooster fish” because of the spiny red fins bristling from their heads. It’s a pretty fitting title for them once you get a good look at them.
As you can see, the villagers who found this particular oarfish were captivated by the discovery. Another name for the oarfish is the “ribbon fish,” and this picture clearly shows why. It does actually look like a massive silver ribbon!
Still, other places call the oarfish the “king of the herring” because of its silvery sheen. That sheen, however, becomes quite dull after the oarfish dies, which is why it’s lacking from most of those found washed up on beaches.
Although most of the oarfish found are already deceased, occasionally fishermen will haul in a live one. However, they almost always toss them back into the ocean because the meat is notoriously flabby and gooey, and no one buys it.
Asia isn’t the only region where these strange oarfish have been found on the shores. California, which is also known for its earthquakes, has actually been a hotspot for oarfish sightings itself.
In 2013, the body of an 18-foot oarfish was found on the coast of Catalina Island, and several months after that, two living oarfish were seen swimming in the shallow waters off the coast of Baja.
In one instance, a California woman captured footage of an oarfish while kayaking! The enormous fish was gliding around in the shallow waters, and it actually swam directly underneath her kayak!
The reason so much attention has been brought to these fish is because they’ve been known to wash up on shores situated on massive fault lines, such as Japan, California, and the Philippines. This has earned them the reputation of earthquake predictors!
Even though many researchers attempt to connect the behavior of oarfish with the presence of earthquakes, it’s a very hard to prove. Not only that, but there are several other explanations as to why they show up floating around…
Some experts suggest storms and light seismic activity, which doesn’t necessarily result in earthquakes, push the oarfishes’ prey—plankton—to the more shallow waters. Therefore, the oarfish follow their dinner to shore, where they inadvertently beach themselves.
Still, other researchers believe that because oarfishes’ bodies are highly sensitive to stress in the water, it’s possible that the water from big ocean swells simply carries them onto the shore. Once that happens, they’re frequently left to die.
It’s unfortunate we don’t know more about these highly unusual creatures, but hopefully we’ll discover more about oarfish in the upcoming years. They’re truly one of the most fascinating animals under the sea!
It might just be a coincidence that these oarfish all appeared around the times that catastrophe struck, but islanders should still be wary of their presence. What do you think?
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