Monster-Like Oarfish to Be Scanned at UCLA to Create Rare 3-D Images

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Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 8:02 AM

click to enlarge CRAIG NAGY/FLICKR
  • Craig Nagy/Flickr
Remember those two sea monster oarfish that washed up on Southern California beaches last month?

See also: Oarfish Don't Predict Earthquakes?

The serpent-like creatures were rare enough that scientists up and down the coast have requested pieces to test DNA and grab other information. Some L.A. area researchers are one-upping the academic competition, though:

The UCLA Translational Research Imaging Center, normally used in medical research, put one of the two oarfishes on a CT scanning bed last week to find out what makes these things tick. A crew from the Discovery network filmed it, the university says.

In particular, sea-life scientist Misty Paig-Tran of Cal State Fullerton, is trying to figure out how the fish swim vertically as deep as 3,300 feet below the surface of the Pacific.

See also: Oarfish & Earthquakes: Creatures Wash Up & Superstition Arises.

That's right, these mysteries of the deep, which can measure 12 feet and longer, actually have a long, thin dorsal fin that propels them vertically, as if they're just hanging around.

Why is not really clear. Paig-Tran hopes UCLA's bad-ass equipment can help answer the question. She says:

click to enlarge UCLA
  • UCLA

The oarfish hangs motionless in the water for much of the day, except for its continuously beating dorsal fin, which is bidirectional. [The scan could] explain why the fish moves its fin this way and how its soft skeleton contributes to its swimming performance.

This particular 14-footer, the one found in Oceanside last month, was pregnant with eggs. Researchers also want to take a close look at her millions of eggs to analyze them, UCLA says.

The late mama had to be frozen and chopped into multiple pieces for shipping, the school says. She was scanned in three chunks within minutes.

Paig-Tran says the next step will be to use the CT data to create a 3-D model, likely a first, of the fish. That conclusion will likely end up in a future research paper, UCLA says.

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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