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King of herrings, the world's largest bony fish

Updated on July 7, 2014


You may think that the creepy creature depicted in the photo below is photo-shopped. I assure you, it's 100 % real! The picture is taken from the page 20 of the April 1997 issue of "All Hands", a U.S. Navy-owned publication. The serpent-like animal these sailors hold is commonly known as the King of Herrings and is the world's longest bony fish.

Scientifically described as Regalecus glesne and also known as the giant oarfish, the species can be found in all three major oceans. Commonly reaching lengths of 5 to 10 meters, the King of herrings is a sight to behold!

Modern historians say that many of the sea serpent/monster legends and stories should be attributed to sightings of this frightening animal. However, despite its scary and breath-taking appearance, this creature is a "gentle giant" that poses no threats to humans. It can't even bite, as it has no teeth!

Now, let's learn more about this truly magnificent creature.


Discovery and Sightings

The King of Herrings was first discovered by a Norwegian biologist, Peter Ascanius, in 1772. Sightings in its normal enviroment (300-1000 m deep) are virtually non-existant. Even recordings in swallow waters or ashore - when the fish is dying or already dead - are very rare. Video-footage of the species is even more scarce and the video below is one of the handful we have:


As mentioned before, individuals commonly reach lengths of 5 to 10 meters. However, the longest ever recorded specimen measured a whooping 17 m long! The species average weight is somewhere between 150 to 200 kg, with the heaviest recorded individual being more than 270 kilos.

As you can see on the images, the species has a thin, ribbon-shaped, silver-colored body. Their body has no scales but instead is covered with tubercles.

The mouth is small and contains no teeth.


Diet, Behavior and Reproduction

We know very little about the species dietary, behavioral and reproductive patterns. Examination of dead specimens has revealed small crustaceans, squids, cnidarians and zooplankton inside their bellies.

Adults are believed to be solitary animals, spending most of their lives alone, at depths ranging from 300 to 1000 meters. As for reproduction, we only know for sure that females spawn their eggs from July to December.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the species has yet to be officially assessed. We know very little about their overall populations and whether they are declining or not remains a mystery.

On the bright side, the king of herrings is not commercially fished - although it is an occasional bycatch - and has a worldwide distribution. For this reason, researchers say that its survival is not under any immediate threat.

Where does it common name come from ?

As you can see on the image down below, the fish has crown-like appendages on its head. Furthermore, in the past, fishermen had reported sightings near shoals of herrings, which they thought to be guided by the giant oarfish. Thus, the species was nicknamed "King of Herrings".

More Strange animals

That's pretty much all we know about this beautiful creature.

If you enjoyed reading about the giant oarfish, please consider liking and sharing this post. You may also want to check the following links:

  • Strange Animals List: On-growing list, containing dozens of strange and weird animals from all over the world
  • Strange Aquatic Animals: Again, on-growing list containing exclusively strange and bizarre aquatic animals
  • Bigfin squids: If you found the giant oarfish to be scary than the bigfin squid will make you s*** your pants !


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