Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Oarfish Offer Chance to Study an Elusive Animal Long Thought a Monster

Nick Sutherland
Core Bio
November 6, 2013

"Oarfish Offer Chance to Study an Elusive Animal Long Thought a Monster."

Off the coast of California two bodies of animals long thought to be sea monsters were discovered. One eighteen feet long and the other fourteen, these oarfish offer marine biologists a rare opportunity to study possibly the world’s most evasive fish. These enormous fish, eel-like in appearance, normally range from fifteen to thirty feet long and are notoriously bad swimmers. Oarfish, similar to lizards, have the ability to shed posterior parts of their body. They also have toothless jaws and a large red dorsal fin, which they use to propel themselves. The bodies of the oarfish were divided up among scientists in the area and were dissected for research. It was later found that the female oarfish was pregnant and had it not washed up would have spawned thousands of eggs. On the other hand, the stomach of the male oarfish contained several large tapeworms. This led researchers to believe he came from the West Pacific where these tapeworms are most common. Due to the fact that oarfish are seldom captured, there is very little knowledge about them; even oarfish experts disagree about various important details. Dr. Roberts, a marine biologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research institute, believes that there are several species of oarfish and that during the course of their life, each oarfish changes its gender. Another important thing studiers of the oarfish disagree on is the depth at which the oarfish lives. Most scientists believe that the oarfish lives at depths between five hundred and one thousand feet. However, Dr. Roberts believes they reside near the surface.. The eyes dissected from the oarfish will be studied and from that study scientists think they will be able to uncover the true depth that the oarfish lives. In addition a team of biomechanists will be making a 3D model of this fish that people currently know very little about. The discovery of these oarfish will provide marine biologists with the missing pieces of our current scientific knowledge of the oarfish.

While the findings of this article are not necessarily pertinent to everyone, it still provides interesting context about how little we know about some species. This article personally drew me in because I am an avid scuba diver and am extremely fascinated by the numerous species of fish that exist.

Overall I, thought this article was extremely well written; however one thing that frustrated me was that some claims made in this article had absolutely no evidence. In the article it was stated that “Oarfish may have the capacity to change genders” (Roberts 2013), however no additional explanation or evidence was given. Other than that I felt the article was extremely informative and well written.

QUENQUA, DOUGLAS. "Oarfish Offer Chance to Study an Elusive Animal Long Thought a Monster." New York Times 2 Nov. 2013. Web. 6 Nov. 2013. <>.>.


  1. I thought Nick did a very good job at reviewing this article. I was particularly impressed with his relation of this to humanity, and how he made a personal connection of scuba diving and being interested in seeing the different species. He also did a good job at having a clear summary with plenty of detail about these Oarfish and how little information scientists know about them. He also did a good job of providing details about what is being done with these fish, and what will be done with the information obtained from these studies and dissections.
    I learned that we still had a lot of questions about some fish in our ocean and was surprised that we know so little about such a big fish. Being big I would think it would be easy to spot and find, but I guess it’s not. I also learned that there was even the possibility of an animal changing its gender in the middle of its lifetime by itself. This is very odd to me and doesn’t seem like it could be possible, but according to the article some scientists disagree.
    One thing that Nick could have done better at is explaining why these fish are so hard to find, and evasive. It would also be nice to know more about what scientists have been doing in the past to try to find these fish, and obtain information about them. Overall this article was very well done and informative.

  2. Nick this was really well written. I too find this to be a very interesting topic and it is really cool that fish can grow to be that big. It is very impressive that you found a relation to humanity such as the one you found, because to most people, this article is mostly just an informative piece. So great job on finding that relationship to human beings. The one thing I was a little bit troubled by was how these fish are so "evasive." Other than that great job!