Vancouver Island resident Rachel Bell snapped photos of this odd-looking fish – identified as a spotted ratfish – before pushing it into deeper water on Jan. 14 at Saratoga Beach, near Campbell River.

Ratfish generates social media buzz on Vancouver Island

Boneless, glowing creature a common bycatch, but it usually stays in deep waters – fish expert

Talk about a fish out of water!

An odd-looking fish spotted on Vancouver Island lit up social media this week.

On Tuesday, Campbell River area resident Rachel Bell posted images of the shark-like creature – which has since been identified as a ratfish, a glowing and boneless specimen normally found deep under the sea – to social media.

“Can anyone tell me wtf this thing is?” Bell said in the Facebook post.

In the photos, the two-foot long fish appears to be writhing around in shallow water on a sandy beach. It has bulging turquoise-coloured eyes and white spots covering its long, slender rat-like tail.

More than 70 people from the Facebook community soon responded, most of them in agreement that it was a ratfish or spotted ratfish, known among scientists as Hydrolagus colliei.

Some also suggested “nuclear fish,” “Godzilla baby” and “alien fish that’s supposed to be in the dark deep depths of the ocean.”

Dr. Jim Powell, a fish expert and CEO of the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences in Campbell River, examined the photos for the Mirror and confirmed what dozens of online observers already knew: it’s a ratfish.

“Hydrolagus colliei,” said Powell after viewing the images on Wednesday.

“It’s a male,” he said, pointing to a set “claspers” protruding from its underside.

The ratfish, a relative to the shark, has a skeleton made of cartilage – it “doesn’t have a bone in its body,” he said. It’s not a very common sight on the shore, because it’s a deep-water fish.

The species doesn’t have a swim bladder, so if it doesn’t swim, it sinks, he said.

He declined to speculate on how it ended up on the beach, but said it might have something to do with its health or age.

Powell, a scuba diver, said the glowing fish are often spotted underwater at night.

“They’re beautiful, to see them underwater and see them swimming,” he said. “They’re just gorgeous because of their iridescence and that large eye, and they really do glow.”

READ MORE: Animal stories multiply in a wired world

VIDEO: Seal escapes hungry orcas by climbing aboard tourist boat

VIDEO: Humpback rubs against whale-watching boat near Campbell River

Bell told Black Press that she snapped the photos around noon on Jan. 14 while walking her dogs at Saratoga Beach, near Campbell River.

The fish was about two feet long, she said, and it appeared to have washed up on the shore alive. Someone tried to roll it back into the sea, and Bell pushed it into deeper water.

To avoid a spike on its top dorsal fin, she used her gumboots and the plastic handle of a retractable leash to move the fish, she said.

“I believe it fully regained strength and swam away,” Bell said in a Facebook message. “Made me feel pretty good.”

Vancouver Island resident Rachel Bell captured this photo of a spotted ratfish before pushing the odd-looking creature back into the water on Jan. 14 at Saratoga Beach, near Campbell River.

The spotted ratfish, which has a venomous spine, occurs throughout the northeast coastal sections of the Pacific Ocean, from southern Alaska to Baja California, at depths in excess of 900 metres.

Its numbers are increasing, and it’s considered a species of least concern, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

It’s from a group of fish known as chimaera or chimera – a name rooted in a Greek myth about a creature that resembles a lion, goat and dragon combined.

The spotted ratfish is the only type of chimaera in Canadian Pacific fisheries waters, according to a shark conservation plan published by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2007.

“Ratfish are a common bycatch (about 700 tonnes per year) within the commercial trawl fishery for skates,” a type of ray, according to the document. “Since ratfish are of no commercial value, they are discarded at sea.”

The chimaera are also called ghost sharks. The earliest chimaera fossil specimen, a skull, is dated to about 280 million years ago, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The ancient lineage of the ratfish shows, Powell said.

“It’s definitely prehistoric looking, isn’t it?”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Vancouver Island resident Rachel Bell snapped photos of this odd-looking fish – identified as a spotted ratfish – before pushing it into deeper water on Jan. 14 at Saratoga Beach, near Campbell River.

Just Posted

Local skicross racers hit the World Cup circuit

Olympian India Sherret is joined by fellow local racers Zoe Chore and Courtney Hoffos

UPDATED: Hwy 93 reopens after rockslide blocks traffic in Fairmont Hot Springs

Highway at Fairmont between Dutch Creek and Westside Road blocked until geotechnical team can assess

Rob Morrison sworn in as Kootenay-Columbia MP

Parliament set to reconvene on Thursday with election of House Speaker, Throne Speech

Break-and-enter at Family Pantry in Canal Flats

Weekly RCMP report, November 24-December 1

VIDEO: Led by ‘Marriage Story,’ Netflix dominates Golden Globe noms

Netflix flexed its muscles across all categories, just as it is girding for battle with a host of new streaming services

320 years since the ‘Big One’ doesn’t mean it’s overdue: B.C. professor

‘It could happen today, tomorrow or 100 years from now’

Would you leave your baby alone to go to the gym? This Canadian dad did

The man identifies just as a divorced dad with a nine-month-old baby

B.C. coroner asking for help identifying man found dead in Peace region

Mounties have deemed the man’s death not suspicious and believe he died earlier this year

Lawyer competence includes knowledge of Indigenous-Crown history: B.C. law society

All practising lawyers in B.C. will be required to take a six-hour online course covering these areas

Wealth of Canadians divided along racial lines, says report on income inequality

One interesting finding was that racialized men have a higher employment rate than non-racialized men

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

Most Read