A Beachgoer Just Happened Upon A Rare Pacific Footballfish That Washed Ashore In Oregon

Published May 22, 2024
Updated May 23, 2024

Just 31 Pacific footballfish specimens have ever been recorded, leaving scientists largely baffled about these unusual deep-sea creatures.

Pacific Footballfish

Seaside Aquarium/Facebook This is the first recorded instance of a Pacific footballfish washing up in Oregon.

Most people will never see a Pacific footballfish, an elusive deep-sea creature that lives in complete darkness thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface. But a beachcomber in Oregon just stumbled upon one of these monstrous beasts that had simply washed ashore.

The local aquarium that reported this shocking discovery called this fish little-understood but “unusually fascinating.” Indeed, not much is known about these deep-sea dwellers which are as bizarre as they are mysterious.

An Oregon Beachgoer Happens Upon This Pacific Footballfish

According to Seaside Aquarium, this footballfish was found by a beachcomber just south of Cannon Beach in Oregon. This surprise find was remarkable for several reasons.

First of all, just 31 of these fish have ever been recorded. In past years, they’ve washed up in New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Ecuador, Chile, and California. And secondly, this is the first known time that a Pacific footballfish has ever washed up on the Oregon coast.

Deep Sea Angler Fish

Seaside Aquarium/FacebookJust 31 deep-sea angler fish have ever been known to wash up on shore, and never in Oregon — until now.

Because Seaside Aquarium works with Portland State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to respond to marine mammals on the beach, most people know to get in touch with the aquarium if they find something strange. And that’s what the beachcomber did, by sending Seaside Aquarium several photos.

“It was surprising to see this particular fish,” Seaside Aquarium told All That’s Interesting in an email. “Very few have ever been seen and it does not look like your typical fish, especially with those teeth!”

They further remarked that it wasn’t known why the fish ended up on the beach. But the discovery of a Pacific footballfish in Oregon remains a remarkable peek at a rarely-seen deep-sea creature.

An “Unusually Fascinating” Deep-Sea Angler Fish

As Seaside Aquarium noted, “little is known” about deep-sea angler fish, which tend to live 2,000 to 3,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. But “what is known is unusually fascinating.”

“Like other angler fish, they use light that shines from a phosphorescent bulb on their forehead to attract prey,” the aquarium explained, “Food at the depths that these guys peruse can be very sparse, so footballfish are not picky eaters. They eat anything that can fit into their mouths.”

Teeth Of The Footballfish

Seaside Aquarium/Facebook The teeth of the Pacific footballfish that washed ashore in Oregon.

However, only female Pacific footballfish hunt. Males are 10 times smaller than females, and live by finding a female to “fuse themselves to.” After doing this, the male fish lose their eyes and internal organs. They become entirely dependent on the female for nutrients.

But the female Pacific footballfish get something in this exchange too: a steady supply of sperm from the male fused to their side.

“How the males find the females in the pitch dark,” the aquarium remarked in their Facebook post, “is still unknown.”

Indeed, there are still many questions that remain about this peculiar fish, its mysterious nature only allowing it to further trigger thalassophobia. Scientists still don’t know much about how they live their lives, including what exactly they eat. And they don’t know much about the Pacific footballfish’s reproductive system either.

Pacific Footballfish Teeth

Scripps Institution Of OceanographyA close-up of the mouth of a different Pacific footballfish that washed ashore.

The discovery of this fish in Oregon comes just a few years after three Pacific footballfish washed up in California in 2021, but scientists then didn’t believe that the sudden influx of these deep-sea fish was any cause for alarm. However, they couldn’t pinpoint a reason, either.

In the end, it’s just one more mystery.

After reading about the Pacific footballfish found in Oregon, check out these terrifying deep-sea creatures that look like something out of science fiction. Then, read about Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the ocean, and go inside the chilling myth of the Kraken.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "A Beachgoer Just Happened Upon A Rare Pacific Footballfish That Washed Ashore In Oregon." AllThatsInteresting.com, May 22, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/pacific-footballfish-oregon. Accessed June 21, 2024.