Giant oarfish caught off Sweden

Yes, it’s at HuffPo, but it’s still true.  The giant oarfish, also known as “the king of herrings” (Regalecus glesne), is the world’s largest bony fish (“teleost”), and  can grow up to 11 meters (36 feet) long!  It’s rarely photographed because it lives in the deep sea, but one just washed up on the coast of Sweden, where it hasn’t been seen for 150 years.  They eat plankton. Until today I didn’t know these creatures existed.

Here’s one about to become an ex-oarfish:

Here’s what appears to be the only existing film of non-dying oarfish, filmed at 1500 feet by an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  Look at that crazy headcomb and undulating dorsal fin!


  1. Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Oarfish are just awesome. That is all I have to say on the matter.

    • Charmaine Rohlandt
      Posted June 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I reckon that if they get caught, they should be released. Feel the same about Swordfish. Dolphins, Whales etc. There are plenty of other smaller and plentiful fish and shell fish that are meant for eating.

  2. Jim
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    It’s the Loch Ness Monsta! Srsly, though, there could be a creature that looks just like those old Loch Ness “photographs” in the sea somewhere. It’d be awesome if we found it and proved all those crazy Scots weren’t so crazy after all.

    • Gauldar
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I think it only proves they were “half-crazy”.

      • gina
        Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        the only problem is…if you found a sea creature that looked like Nessie, it wouldn’t be! Nessie is a freshwater creature, so the sea animal could be a distant cousin, but not Nessie 😦

        Sorry to burst your bubble

        • IQcheck
          Posted May 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          unless it was like most other salt water species and able to adapt to brackish water. or as quite a few other salt water species have shown as well, able to adapt to full fresh water conditions.
          “Sorry to burst your bubble”

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    You could make a lifetime supply of matjessill from that!

  4. KP
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Ichthyological Taxonomy Police here…

    Not sure where the title “king of herrings” comes from, but oarfish (Lampriformes) are not even closely related to herrings (Clupeiformes).

  5. Posted May 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Ha! My family had an encyclopedia set circa 1980, and I used to look at the pictures of the crazy ocean fish. I recognized the oarfish immediately.

  6. Lauri Törmä
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink


    Tapio Puolimatka and WEIT is not yet available on the internet but I’m watching the latest episode right now. They are talking about animals, suffering and Dawkins. They say that Dawkins admits in the River out of Eden that there is a designer but it can’t be a loving god. Puolimatka said something like: ”only primates are aware of their pain so there is no problem with cheetahs and gazelles”.

    I can translate, make subtitles and upload the WEIT-episode to youtube when it’s available and if people want to see it.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:21 am | Permalink

      I don’t know Puolimatka, but he seems to be a professor in philosophy. He appears on some finnish aplogetics wiki as claiming Dawkins has a god. Here it isn’t a designer god but the emotional interest of Dawkins which is his “god”.

      In short, Poulitmaka is making shit up as he goes.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      Oh, I forgot; apparently Puolimatka tag teamed with loon Matti Leisola, professor in “bioprocess” technology, to spout base creationism during last Darwin year. That should place him as well. 🙂

  7. SaintStephen
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    What a truly magnificent creature.

  8. MadScientist
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know the Swedes ate plankton. You can bet those folks are thinking “this will make an awful lot of lutefisk”.

    • Microraptor
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Are you sure they’re not thinking “Now we just need to find the tallest tree in the forest?”

  9. daveWTC
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    There is (the skeleton of) something very much like that mounted on a wall on the top floor of the conference center at Sunshine City in Tokyo. Could it be the same creature?

  10. Andy James
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m completely gob-smacked that Dr. Coyne was unaware of such an amazing creature. No doubt he is aware of hundreds or thousands of creature I have no idea exist. However, I’m glad he came to know the animal known as the Oarfish. Who needs Avatar with a planet so fun.

  11. Microraptor
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one who looked at the video description with “only non-dieing video” “oil rig” and “Gulf of Mexico” and said “oops?”

  12. Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Oarfish are almost certainly the source of all the ancient stories about “sea serpents”. I mean, seriously, if that thing was swimming past you, you are not thinking “fish”, you are thinking “snake”.

    Hence, perhaps Laocoon and his family were killed by a couple of giant fish.

  13. Sarah
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    The video of the live, apparently healthy oarfish in the Gulf of Mexico makes the current oil gush even sadder.

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