Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Here be sea serpents?

Extraordinary footage of a rarely seen giant deep sea fish has been captured by scientists. Using a remotely operated vehicle, they caught a rare glimpse of the huge oarfish, perhaps the first sighting of the fish in its natural setting. The oarfish, which can reach 17m long, has previously only been seen on a few occasions dying at the sea surface, or dead washed ashore. The scientists also filmed for the first time the behaviour of a manefish. Oarfish (Regalecus glesne) are one of the world's longest fish reaching 17m. Their strange appearance may have provided the basis for the sea serpent myths told by early ocean travellers. Not only are they elongated, they also have a prominent dorsal fin which gives it an unusual "serpent" appearance. Recalling the event Professor Benfield explained how at first, they thought the fish was simply a drilling pipe called a riser being lowered into the water. "We saw this bright vertical shiny thing, I said 'are they lowering more riser?' as it looked like they were lowering a huge pipe." "We zoomed in a little bit and we said 'that's not a riser that's a fish!' Professor Benfield said this may be the first time the oarfish has been filmed alive swimming in the so-called mesoplagic layer of the ocean. Usually, they are seen dying at the sea surface or washed up dead. Professor Benfield is excited by the potential for further discoveries and revelations from the deep that the Serpent project may bring. "It's all very exciting, my vision for the Gulf Serpent Project is to establish a Gulf-wide deep sea biological observation system, with hundreds of ROV-equipped ships and rigs in the deep Gulf." "(We can) get a good idea of what species are present, where they are present, and what are they doing."

Full story and videos of the fish here :


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