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Worms and eggs found in two recently discovered oarfish

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Jaclyn Whittal
Meteorologist

Friday, November 1, 2013, 7:58 -

Two frightening creatures recently emerged from the depths of the Pacific ocean, giving scientists a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity for study.

On October 13, a five metre oarfish was spotted just off Catalina Island in southern California. 

It was discovered by a Marine Institute instructor, who approached the snake-like fish very cautiously before she realized it was dead.

It took 15 adults to move it to shore.

Because the species live in waters more than 900 metres deep, experts say it's extremely rare to find an oarfish, dead or alive. 

Strangely, just a few days later, a smaller oarfish washed ashore north of San Diego.

Parasitologists from the University of California, Santa Barbara jumped on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the elusive creature. 

In the one that washed up at Catalina Island, researchers found a heavy parasite load.

"Our findings say that these are actually majorly parasitized fish," Armand Kuris, a professor of zoology at UC Santa Barbara, said in a statement. "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." 

Other parasites that were found will help provide insight about the diet of the serpentlike fish, Kuris adds. 

Meanwhile, in the second oarfish, researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported that they found hundreds of thousands of eggs inside its ovaries.

The causes of death for both of the oarfish remain a mystery. 

The oarfish, or Regalecus glesne, has no teeth and feeds mainly on plankton, jellyfish and squid. 

The species is believed to grow upwards of 15 metres long and weigh as much as 600 pounds. 

The freakishly long creature spawned legends of sea serpents back in the day.

According to Japanese folk-lore, the sudden appearance of an oarfish can also be tied to earthquakes.

With files from The Associated Press

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