Beach goers had a frightening surprise when a monstrous fish, later identified as a long-snouted lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox), washed up ashore alive at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina.
Lancetfish are a nocturnal predator that is rarely seen near shore. The fish is not only known for its terrifyingly long fangs, but also its cannibalistic tendencies – they eat their own species.
Because it’s a relatively uncommon fish, little is known about its life cycle. In adolescence, lancetfish are hermaphrodites, though there’s no evidence of adult hermaphrodites.
Lancetfish are also known as handsaw fish, because of their prominent, jagged dorsal fin, which runs along almost the entirety of their back. The fish have no scales per their scientific name, Alepisaurus, which translates to “scaleless lizard” and their skin is covered with pores instead.
They can reach up to 6.5 feet in length. Lancetfish typically feed at night, and in addition to eating their own kind, they also eat crustaceans, squid and other smaller species of fish.
They are in turn preyed upon by byseals, sharks, and other larger fish, including tuna. They are not deemed appropriate to eat for human consumption, because their muscles contain large amounts of water, making their flesh somewhat mushy and therefor unappetizing. Fishermen, in fact, consider the lancetfish to be a “trash” fish that is sometimes takes bait intended for more profitable catches such as tuna.
The fish are found in open waters throughout tropical and subtropical oceans, though they have been known to travel as far as Greenland and Iceland.
The one that was found by beach goers in North Carolina was still breathing when it washed up ashore, and when it was later carried back out to deeper water it eventually found its way on shore again, leading researchers to believe it may be sick per Nature World News.