Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creature Feature: Oarfish.

Happy Chinese New Year! Starting today, February 3rd, we are officially in the Year of the White Rabbit.

Oh, the horror.

No, today's animal is not the Killer White Rabbit; that does not exist, unfortunately. We suspect Playboy bunnies of being legendary creatures as well. That white rabbit in the moon that keeps popping up in anime? Not sure about that one, or the one in Alice in Wonderland. What does exist is the Chinese dragon.


If you take this fish anywhere in Asia, the local people are guaranteed to tie it to a dragon somehow. Various posts from Thailand have called it "son of the dragon," "Queen of Nagas (naga being another type of dragon, mind)", or something along those lines. The Japanese see it as a messenger from the Sea Dragon God's palace (竜宮の使い); small wonder, seeing as oarfish are extremely deep-water fish.

They are also HUGE.

Oarfish (genus Regalecus) are long, slender fish with a bright red coxcomb that runs from their heads to their tails. This, combined with a massive length of over 50 feet in some species (R. russeli and R. glesne in particular) have given this rare fish the title of 'king.' R. glesne, the longest bony fish in existence at 56 ft (17.2 meters), has the rather dull nickname of "king of herrings."

Although they have a worldwide range, encounters with oarfish are rare. These majestic fish are smart enough to live only in the deeper parts of the ocean, thus preventing humans from keeping them as pets. The oarfish caught on film are either dead, dying, or briefly coming up to the surface world to feed (maybe?) in a strange vertical position. They are toothless and thus harmless to humans. *Insert How to Train Your Dragon joke here.* If you encounter one, be sure to take a picture.

Of course, Asia has gone wild with oarfish. No, they are not good sushi; oarfish are coated with a layer of guanine slime and have unpalatable flesh. In part because they are related to dragons, they have gotten a Pokemon in Milotic, a Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card, and a Touhou character.

Oh, speaking of Touhou, they also made a lunar white rabbit. It is not physically possible to handle this many bunnies. Happy Chinese New Year!

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