A rare fanged lancet fish was recently washed up a North Carolina beach. These animals normally live at great depths, and are rarely seen by humans.
The rare fish was discovered on 12 May, after becoming beached, in Nags Head, a beach south of Jennette's Pier. The stranded animal was first noticed by beachcombers, standing on a pier.
Lancet fish have extremely large mouths, and razor-sharp teeth. These open-water animals can grow over six feet in length. Very little is known about this elusive species, but they are similar to yellowfin tuna and swordfish in many aspects.
They are found in waters around the world, with the exception of polar regions.
"Lancetfishes have been seen as far north as Greenland and are often caught by vessels long-lining for tuna," according to a report on WGHP, Fox New 8, that first reported the story.
Daryl Law works on the beach, and was one of the people able to take a picture of the animal, as did Leif Rasmussen.
Jeanette's Pier posted pictures of the fish on their Facebook page. While some readers thought the creature was "nasty" and asked "Does it eat people?" others were fascinated by the unusual find.
Biologists believe the species first evolved during the Middle Miocene epoch, between 16 and 11 million years ago.
Lancet fish are the sole surviving members of the genus Alepisaurus, meaning scaleless lizard. There are two varieties of this fish in the world today. Alepisaurus brevrostris have short snouts, while Alepisaurus ferox possess longer faces than their cousins. Within their jaws, the fish possess two to three fang-like teeth, in addition to numerous other smaller teeth for chewing its prey.
Lancet fish have watery muscles, which are not well-suited for long-distance hunting. Therefore, biologists believe the species practices ambush hunting, waiting for their prey to swim by, then latching onto their target, using their sizable fangs. Stomach contents recovered from the animals show they often eat shrimp, and other crustaceans. They have also been shown to eat each other, at least occasionally.
After a few photographs were taken of the unusual creature, the fish was released back into the ocean, presumably unharmed from its experience. After the first attempt to release the animal back into the wild, it swam back on shore, and was sent back to the water. This suggests the animal could be sick or injured. Wildlife experts suggest this illness or injury may have been what drove the animal to beach itself.