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Oarfish & Earthquakes: Creatures Wash Up & Superstition Arises

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Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 8:08 AM
click to enlarge CRAIG NAGY / FLICKR

It's weird enough that two of the strangest, rarest creatures from the deep have washed ashore in one week in Southern California.

See also: Oarfish Don't Predict Earthquakes?

Now it turns out that Oarfish, the likely source of sea-serpent myths through the ages, are the subject of superstition in Japan that equates their appearance with impending earthquakes:

The U.K.'s Telegraph reports that after big earthquakes in Chile, Haiti and Taiwan in 2010 about 10 Oarfish washed up in Japan in March of that year. The creatures, the world's largest bony fish, are known as the "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace" to some in Japan.

The Telegraph:

According to traditional Japanese lore, the fish rise to the surface and beach themselves to warn of an impending earthquake - and there are scientific theories that bottom-dwelling fish may very well be susceptible to movements in seismic fault lines and act in uncharacteristic ways in advance of an earthquake ...

The Big One for Japan didn't happen until March, 2011, but it's an interesting superstition nonetheless.

Over the weekend a 13-foot Oarfish washed up in Oceanside in northern San Diego County. That followed the discovery last Sunday of an 18-footer off Catalina Island by a diver who saw it looking up at her.

She enlisted fellow divers to help her drag the dead creature to shore.

Oarfish thrive in super-deep water, sometimes 3,000 feet down, and can grow as long as 50 feet.

Their appearance in Southern California has scientists wondering what's up. Until they figure it out, maybe we should brace for the Big One, just in case.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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