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Photos Of The Parasites Inside The 18-Foot Oarfish

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Scientists who cut open the rare 18-foot oarfish that washed ashore in Catalina a few weeks ago discovered the elusive California sea monster hosted its own little monsters inside.

The oarfish, also known as the "king of herrings," and "ribbonfish," is thought to be the world's largest bony fish and can grow more than 30 feet long, according to UC Santa Barbara scientists.

The results of their examination not only revealed more parasites than scientists had documented in the past, but clues into the ecology and habitat of the deep-water fish, according to the UCSB release. Researchers found tapeworms and roundworms in their sample, as well as a piece of a spiny-headed worm hooked onto the fish's intestine. The spiny worm is a bit of a big deal.

"These [findings] tell you about what the natural enemies of the oarfish are," Kuris said. The species it feeds on also indicate where the serpent-like creature is likely to live or hunt -- welcome information, considering only two papers on oarfish parasites exist.

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The researchers aren't making any statements about whether these parasites explain why one (or even two) oarfish washed ashore. The next step for the researchers is to send parasite specimens for further identification. Scientists could pursue a molecular analysis of the DNA as well.

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