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Deep sea surprise: Taiwanese divers encounter rare giant oarfish

A group of divers encountered a rare giant oarfish off the coast of Taiwan recently.

The viral video, originally published by diving instructor Wang Cheng-Ru in June, shows the group encountering the deep-sea fish in shallow water off the coast of the Ruifang District on the northeast corner of the island.

Footage of a giant oarfish is rare as they are normally found at depths between 200 and 1000 feet below the surface of the sea.

Sightings of the glittering silver on its body are a sign of an impending disaster, according to legend. However, the video shows that the oarfish encountered by the group appears to be wounded.

“Many amazing animals can be found off Taiwan’s northeast coast … but it was my first encounter with a giant oarfish,” Cheng-Ru told Newsweek.

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What is a giant oarfish?

The giant oarfish is a deep sea dweller that normally lives around 700 feet below the surface but has been found as deep as 3,280 feet under the sea.

Oarfish can be found around the globe in non-Arctic waters and are characterized by their scaleless body covered in silvery guanine.

It is considered the longest bony fish in the world by Guinness World Records. In 1963, an oarfish was caught in New Jersey that was estimated to be 50 feet long, and in1885, a 600-pound example was caught in Maine.

The fish’s scientific name is Regalecus glesne. It earned its common name from its highly compressed and elongated body, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Are oarfish dangerous?

While the sightings of live oarfish are rare, those who see them are in little danger.

Oarfish do not have teeth and feed on plankton through gill rakers.

While the fish may have been inspiration for the tales of sea monsters, there are no reports of encounters with oarfish resulting in harm.

Oarfish in mythology

According to Japanese folklore, oarfish sightings are an omen of an impending disaster.

The fish is called “ryugu no tsukai” – which translates to “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace” – and was believed to be the servant of the sea god Ryūjin.

The legend says that the fish are sent from the palace to the surface to warn people of coming earthquakes.

While there were sightings of the fish ahead of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and Fukishima nuclear disaster, scientists believe the connection is spurious.

“There is no scientific evidence of a connection, so I don’t think people need to worry,” Hiroyuki Motomura, a professor of ichthyology at Kagoshima University told the New York Post. “I believe these fish tend to rise to the surface when their physical condition is poor, rising on water currents, which is why they are so often dead when they are found.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Divers off the coast of Taiwan catch rare giant oarfish on video

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