Oar fish: Characteristics, habitat, legends and more….

This time you will know everything about these stunning creatures called oar fish which are pelagic lampriform fish belonging to the small family Regalecidae.


Animalia Kingdom Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii  Order: Lampridiformes Family: Regalecidae  Genders Agrostichthys and  Regalecus

What are the Oar Fish?

The species of oar fish belongs to the family regalecidae, specifically to the lampriform group, which are established in the marine waters of almost the entire globe.

They prevail in the tropical and more temperate zones.

The oar fish are considered one of the longest bony fish seen measuring about 17 meters long or more, in the case of the giant oar fish….

The Oar Fish’ Main Characteristics

Now that we know what oar fish are, it’s time to talk about their characteristics. They are one of the longest fish in the world, provided with a large dorsal fin, which gives them an unusual shape and resemblance to a snake. These really big creatures are usually seen alone for most of their life.

In addition, oar fish are known as very calm and not dangerous creatures, which plunge into the depths about a thousand meters deep.

Unfortunately, not many details of these interesting creatures are known because they almost never remain on the surface.

Usually when they can be seen on it, is because they are dying or are already totally dead.

Oar fish are also known as  regaleco fish in some parts of the world, and belong to a group of only two genera of lampriform fish, inhabitants of the ocean waters, who settle in the various tropical and colder waters of all the world.

The different findings of this species have been used to investigate and learn more about them, since there are still many aspects that are not fully known.


Oar fish have a slender and flattened scale-less body,, covered by a silver guanine wrap, as well as an outstanding, medium-sized mouth. In addition, they have some weird accessories that give them a strange appearance, full of a unique beauty, within so  many marine species.



They have a good-sized dorsal fin, which begins at the top of the eyes and reaches the end of the tail.

This is pink or red and has about four hundred thorns; twelve of them being slightly elongated, which gives rise to the formation of a protruding and very striking red crest.

The pelvic fins as well as the dorsal ones have almost the same elements, and their shape resembles an oar and hence the origin of the species name. The pectoral fins are very small, almost visible while the anal and caudal ones are extremely small, almost absent.

The elusive oar fish lives between 200 and 1,000 meters deep and is characterized by a silvery skin and red fins. Traditionally known as «Ryugu no tsukai» in Japanese, or the «Messenger of the Palace of God of the Sea», the legend says that they pile up on the coasts before the underwater earthquakes.

The Oar Fish’ Common Behavior

These are shy and very calm fish that don’t like to attract attention. When they are stalked by their predators, oar fish tend to flee to the depths and take refuge among the rocks.

Moreover, they spend most of their life in the depths swimming adrift and protecting themselves from their stalkers.

Oar fish use their dorsal fin for swiming and do it vertically.

They can be found in the depths swimming vertically although they can also swim horizontally, due to their fairly good locomotion system that allows them to perform various maneuvers of change of speed and direction..

Despite their imposing size and appearance, lampriphorms, are solitary fish and rarely can be seen near another specimen of the same species. Sometimes, they can be seen in small groups when they move to another habitat, although they do not stay together, but maintain a relative distance.

Most of the time they can be found floating near the shores because they are dragged by sea currents when they are already sick or old and unable to struggle against them. Oar fish are considered true sea monsters because of their size just like the stone fish.

Let’s learn more about them

Oar Fish: Habitat and Distribution

Oar fish inhabit the depths about 1000 meters. Thanks to their ability to adapt their body temperature to about twenty degrees Celsius, they can be found in almost every ocean in the world, except for polar areas.

They are usually a migratory fish, so they don’t stay long in an area.

However, oar fish can be found relatively easily in tropical regions of the temperate oceans.

They move to great distances of different waters to look for food and refuge and to flee from their predators being able to navigate from depths of 20 meters to 1000 quickly.

What do Oar fish Feed On?

The Regalecidae feed on plankton, squid, small fish and crustaceans using their gills and the very well developed rakes of their mouth, which are not observed with the naked eye, but only when capturing their prey.

How do Oar Fish Catch their Prey?

Oar fish differ from sawfish because they lack teeth, so they must use other means to catch their prey and feed. Everything in these animals has a raison d’être, since they don’t  not have teeth, but fortunately they are provided with mouth gills spines designed for such a rake-like activity, which unfold from their gills.  Another advantage for catching prey is their vertical swimming way, which is quite useful.

How Do Oar Fish Reproduce?

The spawning occurs between July and December, during which time they lay a larger quantity of eggs around 2.5 millimeters in diameter.

Such eggs are thrown towards the surface where they remain floating until they reach the time of hatching.

The Fertilization is carried out externally, since eggs are fertilized outside the female’s body.

In general, the male always remains very close to the female and the moment she releases the eggs they drop their sperm immediately to fertilize them.

Once hatching occurs, the larvae remain on the surface for a good period of time, until they are dragged by the currents to the depths where they remain until adulthood..


This species is listed as of minor concern and is not on the red list of threatened species. Additionally, oar fish are considered as cosmopolitan fish, which have been established effectively in different areas, where until now no signs of threats have been observed. 

They are seldom used for human consumption, so their commercial value does not mean any risk.

However, this species is gaining prestige in different sport competitions, due to the weird appearance and all the stories that exist around them.

They are considered long-lived fish, which can live more than 10 years.

Auto Amputation Skills

Oar fish have a very relevant characteristic, which is the capacity of self-amputation. However, some doubts have not yet been clarified in this regard, despite the fact that many media have given information about this event, stating that this fish bites its tail to amputate it.

The latter is not very credible since they do not have teeth. What is more likely is that this fish separates the final part of its body, (a fact that until now the reason is unknown), many times throughout its existence.

Let’s keep learning

Research on Oar Fish

In this article we present the most beautiful aspects of oar fish, very different from the stories found since ancient times, which are due to the little knowledge about these creatures and the difficulty of accessing the depths where they live.

All this joins the strange and mysterious aspect of their appearance and the reserved nature of their behavior, which prevents the realization of clear observations which would allow so many mysteries to be cleared.

All these variants have made that around this fish weave infinities of findings and stories of prejudices against them that they are only creatures with different characteristics to those we are accustomed to observe and that far from being monsters, they are actually Marine creatures with unique qualities.

In general, research on oar fish has been quite superficial due to its anatomy and behavior. However, evidence has been obtained that demonstrates wonderful facts about their life.

This is  an invertebrate animal considered the longest in the world (especially the giant oar fish Regalecus glesne), which can measure more than thirty feet in length. It has a slender body without any scales, with a beautiful bluish color.

This inhabitant of the deep waters of the oceans has other very striking attractions such as its dorsal fin, which highlights its entire body, from the top of its eyes to the end of its tail.

This fin has a nice pink color, right there a crest is formed with many rigid spines of a pronounced size that make it look an extraordinary work of art of nature.

Its beautiful flattened figure and its exotic movements are what have given it the absurd name of “sea snake”.

The Researches carried out so far on oar fish have been in dead specimens found on the shores of the seas.

Oar fish is found in the depths of the seas, it is known that they exist in the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the American Pacific, in Chile and the Southern Hemisphere. The polar seas are the only geographical area where this interesting species has not been visualized.

They are usually observed only in the depths of the oceans (more than a mile), and when they are on the shores, is because they have been swept away by the water currents for being sick or with an injury.

This is one of the reasons why various versions have been woven from seeing huge snakes in the seas. One of their quite striking features is the way of swimming, which they perform with a unique, aerodynamic and surrounding style, keeping their body in a straight position and undulating their dorsal fin.

New Events

These events happened in the vicinity of the marine waters in New Zealand in 2015, where a huge fish of strange appearance appeared, cataloged as a sea monster, the same of the ancient legends narrated by numerous fishermen and chroniclers.

The strangest thing was that after a few hours this fish mysteriously disappeared.

Those who had the opportunity to observe it were able to verify that it was an oar fish.

Similarly, in a salt swamp near Otago Harbor in Aramoana, another four-meter oar fish was found.

These facts have alarmingly missed the population of New Zealand, where for many years no type of species similar to this sea creature looked so strange.

However, much of this appearance had great results, since it allowed the researchers of the Otago museum perform some tests, taking samples in their DNA.

It was tried to continue with the investigations, but due to the lack of means and resources it could not be done, since the corpse of this animal had to be kept in good condition and those means were not available at the time.

The only thing they could notice was what he had consumed during the las moments of its life, and large amounts of Krill were found, but the sex or age could not be detected.

In any case it was tried to arrive again to the place to continue the studies, but unfortunately it had disappeared.

Such a fact was not clearly clarified, it was only presumed that it could have been dragged by the tide and the water currents, or simply someone could have taken it.

It’s  also possible that they have consumed it although the oar fish’ meat is not at all pleasant: it is a type of non-edible jelly meat.

It’s  really quite difficult to catch the oar fish alive, since it is an animal that is mostly established in the depths of ocean waters.

In its group of two genera, only four species are known, we already know that their distribution is quite wide and that we can place them only at great depths.

The Oar fish in Japan

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are interesting stories about oar fish that have to do with omens from Japanese culture.

In this belief a different appreciation is given to their sightings and the things that happen when they appear.

In this sense, the appearance of oar fish in Japan has created a myth or perhaps a legend, where there is talk of a sea monster that arrives to attract an earthquake or disaster in this country.

Why do Oar fish appear?

According to this legend, after the appearance of this fish a misfortune occurs (it’s  not known if it is pure chance), since on two occasions when these fish were found on the banks of the waters an earthquake immediately occurred.

The most recent events of these apparitions were in 2010, when a huge oar fish appeared, and two weeks after its appearance a devastating earthquake occurred in this country.

Japan was totally convulsed; this story was recorded as a horror movie, where the bad part takes the appearance of oar fish.

Another recent event occurred in 2013, when an oar fish was seen on the Coasts of California, and then a 7.3 earthquake occurred in Japan.

The Oar Fish and  Tsunamis

The appearance of these marine creatures badly called sea monsters triggers a horror movie and bad omens, since it is said that every time they are observed an earthquake will arrive.

A similar event occurred in 2011 in Haiti and Chile, where a huge sea snake appeared and after two weeks, the disastrous tsunami occurred on the Japanese coast.oar fish: king of herrings is another common name for these fish

Following all these facts, a myth has emerged that although it has a lot of truth, it lets out the fact that every animal lives harmoniously with the movements that occur on the face of the earth and its several variations.

These creatures inhabit the depths of the oceans and for some unknown reason at some point they usually take a walk on the surface of the sea coasts, perhaps for making themselves known and make their beauty so be admired.

Another more reasonable theory would be that oar fish perceive the danger long before it occurs, and reach the coast looking away from the epicenter of the event,

This Japanese theory is called into question by many opinions emanating from different media and representatives close to the events that have taken place on these phenomena in Japan.

Where conclusions drawn by seismologists are heard, who can say with certainty, that the appearance of these species in different places is nothing more than a coincidence of fate itself.

Let’s keep learning

Genres and Species

There are 4 species grouped into 2 genera:

Genus Agrostichthys: 

• Agrostichthys parkeri

Genus Regalecus (Ascanius, 1772)

 •Regalecus glesne (Giant Oar Fish)

 •Regalecus kinoi)

Regalecus russelii (Cuvier, 1816)

Regalecus russelii : Description

Regalecus russellii reaches up to 8 meters in length, and have two dorsal fins that can reach 1 meter high. It has a silver body, with red dorsal fins having 113 to 122 rays.  In addition, Regalecus russellii has 11 to 14 pectoral fin rays, and principal rays could be extremely elongated, and lacks anal fins


Regalecus russellii lives in deep waters near areas such as Japan, California, and Baja California, in waters such as the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans


It uses a feeding stance to see the silhouette of its prey. It feeds on euphausiid crustaceans, small fishes and squid, and uses its protrusive jaws to suck in prey.

Curious Facts about Oar fish

Oar fish are sometimes called the “king of herrings” because of their superficial resemblance to the smaller fish, but they are named oarfish because of their long pectoral fins, which resemble oars.

In Palau, where they were featured on a stamp in 2000, they are called rooster fish, thanks to their slender, reddish fin. Some people also call them ribbonfish because of their body-shape.  

Observing the oar in detail, it’s easy to deduce the origin of so many myths and legends about the sea monsters that inhabit the great ocean waters, which many sailors formerly told about the world.

In the same way, there are stories about huge sea snakes and sea dragons, which today we know for sure that they are nothing more than oar fish of large sizes, since we can find them up to more than 17 meters in length. Finally, we want to share the following curious facts about this mysterious species:

In general, oar fish have a habitual way of remaining in the ocean waters, due to their characteristic body is always in a vertical, hanging position, with the head up. it is considered an extraordinary position of great elegance and natural beauty.

The oar fish’s   life way along with the depths where they inhabit complicates any attempt at study. However, despite the difficulties, records of a 272 kilogram oar fish, called giant oar fish, have been found.

Oar fish are recorded in the Guinness book of records, considered one of the largest bony fish found in the deep ocean. Its general size is three meters, even when there are unofficial records of specimens of more than 270 kilograms and more than 12 meters.

The oar fish has been the subject of countless stories and myths about gigantic sea snakes, in the same way they were related to Chinese dragons and an endless number of legends assigned to a simple but strange maritime creature.

Let’s keep learning



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