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Mysterious Giant Oarfish Resurfaces in the Philippines -- Is This a Warning of a Megaquake?

Feb 25, 2017 07:03 AM EST

The oarfish is perhaps one of the most elusive and mysterious species in the world. Last Wednesday, a giant oarfish washed up in Carmen, Agusan Del Norte, Philippines. This is the second sighting of the deep-sea species in the area, which leads us to the question: is this a sign of an impending megaquake?

In Japan, oarfish (local name ryugu no tsukai) is historically referred as the "Messenger form the Sea God's Palace." This moniker means that the appearance of beached oarfish could foretell an earth-trembling, seismic event, according to Japan Times.

Back in 2010, more than a dozen oarfish washed up in shallow waters before the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile and the 6.4-magnitude quake in Taiwan.

“Deep-sea fish living near the sea bottom are more sensitive to the movements of active faults than those near the surface of the sea," Kiyoshi Wadatsumi, a specialist in ecological seismology and director of the nonprofit organization e-PISCO, told the outlet.

Early this month on Feb. 8, six oarfish appeared in Surigao City, Philippines. The incident happened two days before a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the area, which injured around 200 residents.

However, can the giant oarfish really predict earth-shattering natural disasters?

According to a report from National Geographic, giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne) is a deep-sea animal that thrives in the mesopelagic zone. Growing up to 30 feet long, it's the world longest bony fish and was first discovered in 1772. Very little is known about the species because of its inaccessibility and the rarity of specimen available for scientific research.

Because this creature lives 200 to 1,000 feet below the surface, its appearance in shallow waters means that it could have been pushed by strong currents from a large oceanographic phenomenon.

“It's hard to imagine what sort of phenomenon would occur before an earthquake that would cause these oarfish to leave the [mesopelagic zone] to move towards shore and strand," said Mark Benfield, an oceanographer and ecologist at Louisiana State University.

However, Benfield also notes that if there's an impending earthquake, other marine creatures that live near the ocean floor should surface too. IFL Science theorizes that the recent oarfish sightings could not be an omen of a big earthquake; the animals could possibly be fleeing from small tremors.

The Philippine archipelago is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area in the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are mostly active.

Mindanao, the Philippine island where the oarfish sightings occured, has four major fault lines: the Tagoloan River Fault, the Cabanglasan Fault in Balingasag town, another fault in Alubijid town and the Central Mindanao Fault, Marcial Labininay, Regional Director for Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology-Mindanao, told Sun Star.

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