A strange 7-foot-long cannibalistic fish with fangs that lives in the deep sea is washing up on the West Coast and scientists don’t know why

Deep sea lances are known to participate in cannibalism.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • Lancetfish live in the deep sea, have fanged jaws and long scaleless bodies, and eat their own.

  • The cannibalistic fish is washing up on the West Coast, but scientists can’t explain why.

  • In a video taken in California in 2021, a lancet fish is shown flapping its jaws and crawling on the sand.

Unusual deep-sea fish with fangs and cannibalistic tendencies wash up on the West Coast from time to time, a phenomenon that scientists have left in limbo.

The lancetfish is one of the most exotic creatures in the world, with a prehistoric appearance that includes large eyes, a fanged jaw, a sail-like fin, and a long, slender, scaleless body. Their genus name, Alepisaurus, translates to “scaleless lizard.” They can grow to be more than 7 feet long, making them one of the largest deep-sea creatures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lancetfish are found in oceans around the world and can swim more than a mile below the surface of the sea, usually hunting in a depth known as the “dark zone.” They eat small fish, crustaceans, and octopus, as well as each other. NOAA describes lancet fish as “notorious cannibals.”

Little is known about lancet fish reproduction, but they are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female sex organs. They have also adapted an unusual digestive process, where the food scientists often recover from their stomachs. Scientists think that they might eat as much food as they can when they find it, and digest it later when they need it.

Although sharks and tuna prey on spearfish, their gelatinous flesh makes them unattractive to humans. Lancefish are often caught unintentionally by deep-sea fishermen, especially in Hawaii, but on rare but consistent occasions they will wash up on the coast.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said Monday that several lancet fish had washed ashore in the state over the past few weeks, and at least one was found alive. They sent the lancetfish swimming away after being helped back into the ocean.

“No one is sure why they are washing ashore,” said the department, adding that if the public comes across lancetfish they should share a photo and tag them with NOAA.

Davey’s Locker Sportfishing in Orange County, California, shared a video in 2021 of a live lancet washed ashore in Laguna Beach. The video shows the lancet striking its fanged jaw and clawing wildly at the sand.

Elan Portner, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, told the New York Times that deep-sea fish have been washing up on shores “for at least 300 years and probably longer,” but that “nobody knows what reason.”

Another scientist and fish expert at Scripps, Benjamin Frable, told the Times that one theory is that the fish are accidentally getting too close to shore in search of their prey.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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