Monday, November 11, 2013

Dissecting the "once in a lifetime fish"

The folks at Southern Fried Science have a great post on their site this week: Fish out of water: the necropsy of the beached oarfish.

The easiest way to tell that this was an exciting scientific discovery was by the spectators in the necropsy lab. As fish dissections can be a little messy and smelly, people who are not actively working on a necropsy project normally avoid this lab, but on this particular morning the lab was standing room only.

Even if you didn't enjoy the dissection labs in your high school biology class, this article is worth your time, as the Oarfish discovery truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity:

When marine scientists talk about a “once in a lifetime fish,” we often mean a species that is so rarely seen that we feel lucky to have observed it, even after it has washed up on a beach somewhere. This month we in Southern California have been lucky enough to have one such “once in a lifetime fish” appear twice in a span of a week, as two oarfish washed ashore local beaches. The first, an 18-foot specimen was found on Catalina Island and the second, a 14-foot specimen (approximately 275 pounds), was found in Oceanside, CA.

The pictures of the teams of scientists and spectators lined up along the 20-foot lab table are great, and I really enjoyed the description of how each specialist from each different institution investigates a different set of details in a different sort of way.

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