In world first, Okinawan researchers artificially inseminate, hatch oarfish eggs

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The babies are about 7 mm longt and have long dorsal and ventral fins like adult oarfish. *Photo by Okinawa Churashima Foundation Research Center

The Okinawa Churashima Foundation Research Center, a scientific research foundation that conducts research in marine biology, archaeology and other subjects related to Okinawa, has managed artificially inseminate and hatch oarfish eggs, the first in the world to succeed in the task.

Oarfish are known as the phantom of the deep-sea because of its rarity and mysterious and beautiful shape. They are found in Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. They have a silver, flat body and long dorsal and ventral fins, and can grow up to 5 meters long.

Because of low number of sightings, not much is known about the living habits of the oarfish.

According to the Research Center, two oarfish that were about three meters long each were caught in a fixed net off Yomitan Village on Jan. 28th. However, both died before they could be transported to the Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, but researchers were able to extract sperm and ovum from the fish and use it for artificial insemination. About two weeks later, 20 baby oarfish were born. The babies are about 7 mm longt and have long dorsal and ventral fins like adult oarfish.

The center had the young oarfish in three separate water tanks with different water and shapes to try to grow the babies, but all died by Feb. 19th. Scientists at the center tried to feed live plankton to the babies but they refused to eat. Researchers speculate that the plankton was not the kind of food oarfish babies eat in the wild and that’s why they all died.

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