It’s amazing what wondrous creatures emerge from the deep sea.

On October 13, an 18-foot-long serpent-like oarfish washed up on the shore of a California beach, much to the surprise of the staff and children of the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

Staff and students of the Marine Institute were shocked when a 38-foot oarfish carcass washed onto shore. Photo Credit:
Staff and students of the Catalina Island Marine Institute were shocked when an 18-foot oarfish carcass washed onto shore. Photo Credit:

Oarfish are rare creatures typically found in much deeper waters up to 3,000 feet below the surface. The animals can grow up to 56 feet in length, making them the world’s largest bony fish.

They earned their name due to appendages at the end of their pelvic spines that look like paddles, which are used to help them balance and swim upright. Oarfish are found in all temperate to tropical waters, but are rarely seen, dead or alive. Little is known about their population and behavior.

Because of their strange appearance, oarfish are believed to have inspired legends of giant sea serpents such as those sprouted in Spain and the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year.

Dive instructor Jasmine Santana retrieved the fish, took a few photographs, and put the animal on ice to show the children the next day.

“I was first a little scared,” said the still-thrilled Santana to CNN reporters. “But when I realized it was an oarfish, I knew it was harmless.”

Jeff Chace, a member of the Catalina Marine Institute, told LiveScience, “The kids were stunned, excited, giggly.

Some of the oarfish’s tissues have been sent to the University of California at Santa Barbara to study its DNA and dietary habits. Some staff members revealed plans to bury the oarfish near the ocean in the coming days, but there is also talk of retaining the fish’s skeleton for educational purposes in the future.

— Kayla Newcomer, exclusive to Global Animal

Check out more amazing creatures of the deep sea in the gallery below!

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