A deep-sea fish known for its prehistoric appearance, the Lancetfish, has been washing up on Oregon beaches in recent weeks.
The cause for which these serpent-like fish with protruding fangs and bulging eyes are appearing on the state’s northern and southern coasts is not known to biologists. Usually found in tropical and subtropical waters, lancetfish can migrate as far as the Bering Sea to feed.
Scientists have yet to explain why the cannibalistic fish has been found washed up on the West Coast. Having fanged jaws and scaleless bodies, lancetfish live in the deep sea and eat their own. Growing up to 7 feet long, lancetfish are one of the largest deep-sea creatures.
Alepisaurus, their genus name, means “scaleless lizard”. Found in the oceans around the world, lancetfish can swim more than a mile below the ocean’s surface. “The Twilight Zone” is their favorite area of hunting, as it is deep.
Lancetfish eat small fish, crustaceans, and octopuses as well as each other. Lancetfish are hermaphrodites, though very little is known about their reproduction. The food scientists have found the food eaten by the lancetfish to be fully intact, as it is an unusual digestive process.
Lancetfish are not a popular dish among fish eaters due to their taste and “gelatinous flesh”. The Lancetfish are also known to be “reckless cannibals”. Although sharks and tuna prey on them, their gelatinous flesh does not appeal to humans.
Lancetfish are often caught by deep-sea fishermen, particularly in Hawaii, unintentionally. According to one theory, the recent washups of the Lancetfish are because they are accidentally getting too close to the shoreline while chasing their prey.
The beachgoers have been asked by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to take photos of Lancetfish and put them on their social media pages. A video of a live Lancetfish was shared by Davey’s Locker Sportfishing in 2021, as the Lancetfish were washed ashore in Laguna Beach.
According to a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lancetfish have been washing up on shore “for at least 300 years and likely longer”. Scientists still do not know why Lancetfish have appeared on Oregon beaches in recent weeks, despite their long history of washing up on shore.”