Recent grad finds rare, giant deep-sea oarfish
Alumna Jasmine Santana (BA Screen Arts and Culture major, EEB minor 2010), made a big media splash for her recent discovery of an intact adult oarfish.
Santana, a marine science instructor, was snorkeling off the coast of Southern California in October 2013 when she spotted an enormous oarfish, a mysterious deep-sea creature. Initial fright subsided when she recognized the creature as an oarfish. Santana teaches at the Catalina Island Marine Institute.
Santana was about 15 feet underwater when she found the 18-foot-long, silvery fish with reddish fins and eyes the size of a half-dollar staring at her from the sandy bottom, according to CNN. Realizing it was dead, she grabbed the fish's tail, and using buoyancy and low tides, powered her way back on shore.
After a 15-minute swim dragging the 400-pound carcass, 14 others helped to lift the fish out of the water at Toyon Bay, Calif. Many people believe that the oarfish lies behind the ancient legends of sea serpents.
"Oarfish are found in all temperate to tropical waters, but are rarely seen, dead or alive," CIMI, a non-profit marine science education group, said in a press release. "It is believed that oarfish dive over 3,000 feet deep, which leaves them largely unstudied, and little is known about their behavior or population."
Mark Waddington, the senior captain of the CIMI’s sailing school vessel, said the oarfish's carcass is being preserved in ice, and CIMI has been sending tissues and other samples to marine scientists to study its DNA and diet habits.
Waddington said CIMI will likely keep the fish's skeleton for educational purposes for its program that attracts over 30,000 school children each year.