Tag Archives: ususual

Thingy Thursday: Genesis and the Lancet

Inspired by “Amusing Monday” on Christopher Dunagan’s Watching Our Water Ways blog, I’m officially launching “Thingy Thursday”!

Once in a while, folks send pictures or questions about aquatic life to me or to groups I’m affiliated with. Some are relatively straightforward. Some seem alien. Others confound the experts.

I’ll start with those that have come across my desk and add a few mysteries I’ve personally encountered. I really hope, readers will start sending questions and images (jaws@uw.edu) to help Thingy Thursday grow from a tiny larva to a full blown sea monster! … A bit overblown there,… but if you do happen to find a sea monster, please grab your camera.

Longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). Photo by: Kim Esterberg

One of my favorites washed up on Bainbridge Island’s shoreline in October 2008. The pictures wound up on my desk, so I forwarded it to folks in the know. Several identified it as the longnose or long snouted lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). This is more of a reminder than an original story since it was blogged about at the time: Watching Our Water Ways: Another Strange Creature shows up in Puget Sound. Still I’ll add a couple extra elements.

What you can’t see in these pictures are the huge fangs (a pair on top and 2 pairs on the bottom) and the large, sail-like fin this deep sea predator sports. (Click here for good pictures of those features from a specimen in California).

Longnose lancetfish closeup of head. Photo by: Kim Esterberg

The musculature of these fish is described as “watery”, suggesting they ambush prey instead of actively chasing it down. They’re known to eat fish (including their own species), squid, crustaceans, and salps (free-floating sea squirts, highly evolved invertebrates). I wonder what the watery muscles mean for the fight they put up at the end of a fishing line? Very few people would know.

Another specimen washed up on Vancouver Island in April 2008. The article reported three other beached lancetfish sightings in the Northwest that month, as well as a barracuda and six-gill shark on Vancouver Island. The Bainbridge fish was found 3 months later.

More on lancet fish at… Wikipedia and FishBase

The oceans are full of amazing creatures, and once in a while they appear on that thin boundary between our world and theirs – the beach. I’ll offer up beach walk to the first person to find a giant or humbolt squid on a Salish Sea beach, and either send pictures or pull out the beak for me. You’re more likely to find them on the outer coast, but strange things show up in our inland waters from time to time.

Feel free to send along anything exciting or unusual. Here’s to life’s mysteries! JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.