Sea Serpent Sighting in Gulf Of Mexico: Scientists Film Rare Oarfish 200 Feet Below Ocean Surface [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 11, 2013 12:50 PM EDT

oarfish
Scientists have spotted an extremely rare "sea serpent" in the Gulf of Mexico. The oarfish, or Regalecus glesne, is almost never seen alive. (Photo: YouTube / LSU)

Scientists have released video of an oarfish, a "sea serpent" that lives 1,500 below the ocean surface and is rarely seen. The video, shot in the Gulf of Mexico as part of Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, was captured by a remotely operated vehicle.

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Scientists believe that the extremely rare oarfish is the world's longest bony fish, a category which includes all fish except for sharks and rays. The oarfish, or Regalecus glesne, in the video is only 8 feet long, but scientists have observed oarfish as big as 26 feet. And they believe they can even reach 50 feet.

When oarfish sightings occur, the sea serpent is usually dead, so the LSU Oceanography team were thrilled to capture this stunning creature on HD video. Benfield believes this is the first time the oarfish has been filmed alive in the "mesopelagic" layer of the ocean. More often they're dying towards the sea surface, or dead oh shore.

"It was just so exciting to be in that control room, and we were beaming that footage onto a big screen...People could just not believe the clarity," said Mark Benfield, director of the LSU program.

Benfield has captured video of the mysterious sea serpent four times, but this video is the first time it's been captured in HD. The video, shot in 2011, was captured when Benfield was working in the Gulf of Mexico, assessing the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"We were just finishing up scanning the water column about 200 feet below the surface when my technician yelled," said Benfield. "I walked into the lab and saw this giant oarfish. I was like, 'Oh my God,' and we followed that thing for 10 minutes."

"The striking thing is they swim by undulating their dorsal fin like a propeller, and they can change direction instantly," Benfield said. "Most of the time they move slowly and stealthily, but when they want to, they can move fast."

The oarfish was first discovered in 1772 by Peter Ascanius, a Norwegian biologist. The so-called sea serpent goes by many nicknames, and is known as the king of the herring, streamer fish and ribbon-fish.

A study on the oarfish discovery was published in the Journal of Fish Biology, under the title "Five in situ observations of live oarfish Regalecus glesne (Regalecidae) by remotely operated vehicles in the oceanic waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico."

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