Watch Footage of a Live 8-Foot Oarfish: Legendary 'Sea Serpent' Caught on Film (Video)

First Posted: Jun 10, 2013 12:47 PM EDT

Oarfish are some of the most mysterious and largest creatures of the deep. Commonly mistaken for sea serpents, these massive creatures can reach lengths of over 56 feet. Now, scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico have captured footage of a live oarfish, revealing a glimpse into the behaviors of this fish in its natural habitat.

These massive creatures are found worldwide, swimming through the global seas with their shiny, silver bodies and bright red crests. They usually live in the depths of the ocean, nearly 3,000 feet below the surface. Yet these creatures will sometimes surface, though scientists suspect it's only when they're injured or dying, according to the NOAA.  It's very possible that these massive fish are the basis for the sea serpent myths told by early ocean travellers. Also known as ribbon fish, divers first captured this species on film in 2001, though the specimen was only about five feet long and was located near the surface of the water.

This latest film, though, shows a fish that's eight feet long at a depth of 196 feet. Captured by an ROV, the clip is just one of five different encounters that were filmed between 2008 and 2011, according to io9. The whole operation is actually part of the SERPENT Project (Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology), which aims to explore the undersea environment and record the strange species that make their homes in the depths.

What makes this video so unique is the fact that unlike during other encounters, this oarfish wasn't at the surface of the ocean. Instead, it was found in the mesopelagic layer at the ocean and seemed to be relatively healthy.

Yet the researchers aren't satisfied with just seeing this oarfish, though. They hope to continue their observations and learn a little bit more about the ocean.

"It's all very exciting," said Mark C. Benfield, one of the SERPENT scientists, in a news release. "My vision for the Gulf Serpent Project is to establish a Gulf-wide deep sea biological observation system, with hundreds of ROV-equipped ships and rigs in the deep Gulf. [We can] get a good idea of what species are present, where they are present, and what they are doing."

The findings from this project were published in the Journal of Fish Biology.

Want to see the oarfish for yourself? Check out the video below, originally appearing here. If you fast forward to about 4:13, you'll get to see the best views of the fish.

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