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18-Foot Oarfish Found Off Catalina Is Filled With Tapeworms

Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors with the 18-foot oarfish. (Used with permission/CIMI)
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Scientists who cut open the rare 18-foot oarfish that washed ashore in Catalina a few weeks ago made an interesting discovery: the fish was full of tapeworms and other parasites.

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara said a small sample of the oarfish's intestine was revealing. Armand Kuris, a professor at UC Santa Barbara, said in a statement, "Our findings say that these are actually majorly parasitized fish. In this little piece of intestine that we had, we found quite a few of these rather large larval tapeworms. One of them was about 15 centimeters (6 inches) long."

Tapeworms weren't the only parasites that scientists found in the oarfish, according to Yahoo!. They also discovered the proboscis of an adult spiny-headed worm hooked onto the fish's intestine. Scientists suspect that because the spiny-headed worm was fully grown that the oarfish had eaten the worm's previous host, which could have been krill or some sort of deep-water crustacean.

These parasites could help scientists learn more about the little-studied fish, its diet, where it normally lives and its enemies, according to the Associated Press. Scientists aren't making any statements about whether these parasites explain why one (or even two) oarfish washed ashore.

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Another oarfish that washed ashore the same week in Oceanside was discovered to be full of eggs.

What Scientists Know So Far About The Mysterious Oarfish Washing Ashore
Rare 18-Foot Oarfish Found Off of Catalina Island