Oarfish mystery: Earthquake rumours over beached giant snake-like fish in California

Japanese legend has linked oarfish sightings to earthquakes

STEVE CONNOR THE INDEPENDENT SCIENCE EDITOR TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 2013

Giant snake-like fish washed up onto Californian beaches in recent days may have died a result of the seismic activity under the seabed that occurs days or weeks before an earthquake, scientists said.

At least two oarfish, which grow up to 15 metres long and live in the deep ocean, have been sighted on beaches in California without any visible signs of injury or disease, leading to speculation that they have been affected by some kind of deep underwater disturbance.

Rachel Grant, a lecturer in animal biology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said there might be some truth in the ancient Japanese legend that the appearance of oarfish precedes an earthquake. She has begun a study to test the idea.

“It’s theoretically possible because when an earthquake occurs there can be a build-up of pressure in the rocks which can lead to electrostatic charges that cause electrically-charged ions to be released into the water,” Dr Grant said.

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Categories: Americas, United States

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