Oarfish Image Credit: YouTube/Craig McClain

Scientists have released what is believed to be the first ever good quality video of a healthy oarfish. An oarfish, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, "are greatly elongated, large fish in the family Regalecidae [Latin for 'royal']".

The video was recorded in 2011, via a Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The machine was operated by Mako Technologies and was part of a research project called SERPENT, which is a collaborative effort between marine researchers and the oil and gas industries.

According to the authors of the study documenting the observation, there were "five in situ observations of live oarfish". The research was published online in the June issue of the Journal of Fish Biology.

What is an Oarfish?

Little is known of the physiology and nature of oarfish, given their natural habitat is often in excess of 3,200ft below sea level. The largest officially documented specimen was reported at 36ft in length but the average is believed to be 10ft.

The few specimens that have been sighted, either in videos or as a result of having been washed ashore have provided little insight. For example, in October last year a 15ft oarfish washed ashore on a Mexico beach and died, despite efforts to revive the animal. And in 2006 another specimen, also on the verge of death, surfaced in a cove on the Santa Catalina island off the coast of southern California.

The size and mysterious nature of the oarfish has led to several legendary stories being attributed to and woven around the animal, with ancient mariners calling it a "sea serpent". The very first known recorded sighting of an oarfish may date to 1808, when a 56-foot serpent-like creature reportedly washed ashore in Scotland.

At present, its known distribution is believed to be wide-ranging, meaning it can be found almost anywhere in the world except for polar seas. And as a result of its seclusion, its conservation status is unknown.

Check out the video of a live oarfish, in its natural habitat:

[Video Courtesy: YouTube/Craig McClain]