In days past, it was believed that a swimming oarfish would 'row' with its pelvic fins in a circular motion, hence the common name. Unfortunately folk tales aren't always true. The strange pelvic fins are now believed to be used for taste perception not locomotion.
It is metallic silver with blotches and wavy markings on the body, and pink or red fins.
This species has a concave head profile and a highly protrusible mouth (a characteristic of the order Lampridiformes). It has a dorsal fin that runs the entire length of the body, but lacks an anal fin. There are tiny spines projecting laterally off each caudal and pelvic fin ray.
Although several species of oarfishes have been described, there is now believed to be only one species.
It is thought to live at depths between 20 m and 200 m.
The Oarfish is found worldwide in all tropical and temperate marine waters.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
Feeding and diet
All verified cases of stomach contents consisted of krill (euphausiid shrimps). Reports that the species feeds on invertebrates and fishes are yet to be validated.
People most often see Oarfish washed up on beaches. Encounters with live Oarfish are rare. They are sometimes seen on the surface, and this may contribute to tales of sea serpents.
- Glover, C.J.M. in Gomon, M.F, J.C.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
- Olney, J.E., Paxton, J.R. & W.N. Eschmeyer (Eds). 1994. Encyclopedia of Fishes. Sydney: New South Wales University Press; San Diego: Academic Press . Pp. 240.
- Roberts, T., 2012. Systematics, Biology, and Distribution of the Species of the Oceanic Oarfish Genus Regalecus (Teleostei, Lampridiformes, Regalecidae) Pp. 268.