Tuesday 11 June 2013

Oar Fish - Sea Serpent (Dragon) + Parasite

Have you ever seen an oar fish? I bet you haven't, but the oar fish might be the basis for a lot of sea serpent stories (and sea serpents are dragons: many of the early dragons of mythology lived in the ocean).

The oar fish is long and thin, like a serpent. It has a delicate undulating fin running along its back that is mesmerizing to watch. It has a plume (that is NOT the correct scientific term I'm sure) streaming from the back of its head that is lacy and elegant and, when you see it close up, colorful. It has large shiny eyes and a flexible snout that looks for all the world like it's breathing air. The oar fish typically hangs vertically in the water, looking up, but can also hold itself horizontal to have a good look at you, before slithering away through the depths. It is beautiful. Beautiful.

Until now, almost no one has seen a healthy oar fish in its natural environment, but now you can, and this one also has a parasitic copepod, making it all the more delightful to me. This video, released by marine biologist Mark Benfield, held me spellbound. The really good footage starts about half way through, but for me, the tantalizing process of getting up close built suspense and made the film that much more amazing and satisfying.
I found this here: Netburn, D Ethereal, 8-foot-long 'sea serpent' caught on video  (June 10, 2013).
Los Angeles Times: Science.

It made my day.

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