Is the Huge Oarfish Found in Chile a Prediction of Tsunamis?


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A few days ago, locals in Chile got the scare of their lives when they found a 16ft (about 5m) long fish being pulled out of the water by local fishermen .

The dead fish was hoisted out of the waters using a crane in Arica Harbor and a video of the giant fish called the oar has gone viral on TikTok with around 19 million views.

What is that?

Rowing is a type of large, flat, elongated fish that looks a bit like an eel (but it isn’t). They belong to the Regalecidae family and are known to be the longest bony fish in the world (can span around 56 feet [17 meters] long).

The fish is rarely seen on the surface as it lives deep in the sea ranging from 200 meters to 1,000 meters. Because there is little or no current where they live, they have no muscle mass and can even be seen swimming vertically in the deep sea.

Some say they’re a sign of an impending earthquake

These fish are believed to be the origin of many legends about sea serpents in the deep sea. Do you remember those stories of sea monsters told by sailors? Yeah, they could probably just be that guy swimming in to say hello.

Another popular folklore from Japan tells the story of Namazu, a giant catfish hiding under the Japanese mainland, causing earthquakes in the human world when it wags its tail. This mythological creature is known to cause misfortune and disaster.

There is also another similar fish called Ryugu or Tsukai – nicknamed the Palace Messenger of the Sea God (their version of Poseidon or Neptune) – which is believed to visit the shores of Japan to warn of impending earthquakes and tsunami. .

(Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr)

Therefore, many people fear that oars are a harbinger of bad luck. Some say these creatures can sense an upcoming earthquake because they are deep-sea dwellers, not surface swimmers. So why would they come to the surface if not to warn us, right?

In fact, some scientists have even speculated that since deep-sea fish are closer to active faults, they might be more sensitive to chemical changes that occur in the water during earthquakes. But it’s only an hypothesis. Not a conclusion.

It’s a hotly debated topic and the correlation of these fish with earthquakes might just be a coincidence.

There is no conclusive research that proves this, so currently it is still just a myth

It turns out there are plenty of other facts that support the idea of ​​why these deep-sea creatures found their way to the surface. Some of them probably include them dying, not being good swimmers, and also the El Niño effect.

According to Dr. Misty Paig-Tran, a marine biologist at California State University Fullerton, oars are not good swimmers. They are probably carried to the surface by changing ocean currents. Once there, they can no longer swim. After all, most oars found near the surface are usually sick or dying.

She also added that if there was in fact a tsunami coming, many more types of deep-sea fish would be washed ashore, not just this handsome guy.

(Credit: Tim Evanson, Thomas Kohler/Flickr)

Then, El Niño can also cause them to move away from their natural sea level. According to a 2018 study, as deep water cools and the surface warms, more plankton or krill are found on the surface. Therefore, these guys will follow wherever their seafood platter takes them.

Apart from that, a group of Japanese researchers led by Yoshiaki Orihara, a seismologist from Tōkai University’s Ocean Research Institute, wanted to test whether their mythology was accurate. So they performed a variety of analyzes to find the correlation between oars and earthquakes, including looking at newspaper articles, aquarium archives and academic papers dating back to 1928.

“It is difficult to confirm the association between the two phenomena,” concluded Yoshiaki and his colleagues in a recent article by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. They found no quantifiable relationship between the two and note that this is unfortunately just superstition. If this were to be true, they could potentially make this type of animal a harbinger of impending disasters.

Fun Facts About These Huge “Sea Monsters”

Superstition or not, here are some amazing facts about these innocent denizens of the deep.

They pose no danger to humans as they don’t even have real teeth! Instead, they have gill rakers, typically used for suspension feeding. They feed on plankton and tiny creatures like small fish and squid.

Additionally, they also self-amputate their own tail (as lizards do when threatened) to increase their survivability (it is not easy to be a long prey in the deep sea dominated by predators ). Their vertebrae snap right in the middle and snap! The tail is gone.

(Credit: Patrick Emerson/Flickr)

Another fun fact is that some even say they taste jelly too (they really aren’t meant to be eaten, even dogs and seagulls reject their flesh).

So if you suddenly see an oar, don’t panic just yet. This sea creature is probably too tired to swim back to its habitat.

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