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‘Freaky-looking’ fanged fish found on Oregon beaches


Several scaleless fish with fanged jaws and huge eyes that can be found more than a mile deep in the ocean have washed up along a roughly 200-mile stretch of Oregon’s coastline, and it’s unclear why, scientists and experts said.

In recent weeks, several lancetfish have appeared on beaches from Nehalem, in northern Oregon, to Bandon, about 100 miles from the California border, Oregon State Parks said on Facebook. The agency asked beachgoers who saw the fish to take photos and post them online, tagging the agency and the NOAA Fisheries West Coast region.

Lancetfish live primarily in tropical and subtropical waters, but travel as far north as areas such as the Bering Sea in Alaska to feed. Their slinky bodies contain a “sail-like” fin and their flesh is gelatinous — generally not something humans want to eat, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Ben Frable, a fish scientist who manages the Marine Vertebrate Collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said it’s not uncommon for lancetfish to wash up on beaches, particularly in California and Oregon and other parts of the North Pacific. Ocean. .

It’s unclear what’s behind the deep-sea fish washed up, said Frable, who called it an area of ​​”open research.” He added that it’s not clear if these incidents are becoming more common or just more noticed in the social media era.

Reports of finding the “creepy-looking” lancetfish on beaches date back to the 19th century, he said. The collection he manages includes lancet fish from beaches, including one that ended up on the beach at the institution in late 2021.

In that case, the lancetfish darted “out of the water,” where it was mobbed by seagulls, Frable said. It’s possible that the fish was chasing prey, such as small fish, and got too close to shore — or that it was being chased by a predator, such as a sea lion, he said.

Some have also hypothesized that such incidents may be related to weather or climate patterns in the Pacific, he said.

According to NOAA Fisheries, lancetfish can be more than 2 meters long and swim to depths of more than a mile below the sea surface.

Last week, Miranda Crowell stumbled upon a lancetfish on a beach in Lincoln City, Oregon. At first she thought it might be a barracuda, but that didn’t seem right, so she posted a picture of it on Twitter and asked what it might be. She got an answer quickly.

The fish, which she saw on April 28, was more than 1 meter long and appeared to have just washed up.

“I’ve never seen anything like it on that beach,” she said.

Frable encouraged people to report sightings and said it could provide useful information for researchers.

He also said incidents like this provide an opportunity “to kind of highlight the true diversity of life on the planet and how there are things you just don’t think about — but they’re there.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.