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Oarfish

The oarfish is the longest bony fish in the sea. Also known as the ribbonfish, it can grow up to 50 feet in length and weigh as much as 100 pounds. Its shiny, silvery body and its bright red crest that runs the entire length of its body easily distinguish the oarfish. Oarfish live in the deep ocean at depths down to 3000 feet. They have only been known to come up to the surface when sick or dying and have rarely ever been seen alive.

Oarfish have a small mouth and no teeth. They strain crustaceans from the gill rakers in their mouth. 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.

The Oarfish may have gotten its name from either the shape of its body or the shape of the spines that jut out from its pelvic fins. The fish uses these spines for navigation. It is often seen swimming vertically in the water, pointing its head straight up. Like many deep-sea creatures, it has large eyes that help it see well in the dark, and "lures" that hang down and off to each side of the fish. These "lures" are ribbon-like and have with a yellow diamond-shaped tip. The bright yellow attracts fish, and the Oarfish can then grab them with its protruding mouth. Pink or red spiny fins extend from its head straight up in an "A" shape. This helps the fish protect itself from predators. Red or pink colorations on a fish are a warning to predators and a type of camouflage. In the ocean, red cannot be seen easily because of the lack of light, and red to a fish that can see it means "danger!"

It is believed that an oarfish can survive with only half of its body intact. It is believed that the oarfish may have been responsible for the many sightings of sea serpents reported by ancient mariners. It is indeed one of the strangest looking fish in the sea. Oarfish are found throughout the deep seas of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.

The derivation of the common name is uncertain. It may refer to the oar-shaped body, or the long oar-like pelvic fins, or possibly to reports that as the fish swims the pelvic fins scull the water like oars.