Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

Vicious-Looking S. Oregon Coast Fish Find Bit of Mystery as Well as Subject of Rumor

Published 07/05/22 at 5:35 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Vicious-Looking S. Oregon Coast Fish Find Bit of Mystery as Well as Subject of Rumor

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; major specials now that winter is here
In Cannon Beach:
Includes rentals not listed anywhere else
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
major specials for winter
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Winter's enticing specials now
In Lincoln City:
Major winter specials now
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
major specials this season
In Newport:
Look for many specials
In Waldport
New amenities offered; specials and tempting prices now
In Yachats, Florence
Big deals available; lodgings not listed anywhere else
Southern Oregon Coast Hotels / Lodgings
Reedsport to Brookings, places to stay; winter deals

(Oregon Coast) – So, just what was it that washed up on the southern Oregon coast awhile back, that had so many Internet publications buzzing? (Photos courtesy Reddit's Tilkrik, unless otherwise noted)

If you think those publications came to a definitive answer, you'd probably be wrong.

Earlier in June, a woman posted some pictures on Reddit which had a lot of people talking. Curled up in a stance not unlike Ridley Scott's “Alien” movies, and with teeth almost to match, the decayed and frayed thing looked rather menacing. The Reddit user named Tilkrik asked what it is, and out of the hundreds of responses an answer was apparently arrived at: monkeyface prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus), otherwise known as a monkeyface eel.

At least one publication ran with this answer, but it left the marine nerds associated with Oregon Coast Beach Connection uneasy. No one in that story or any subsequent article was quoted. No sources attributed to this find and who the expert(s) may have been.

It was red flag time. Oregon Coast Beach Connection has access to many experts, which turned out well. There is considerable doubt the find on the southern coast was a monkeyface eel. Yet there isn't a huge degree of certainty what it is, either. Among the marine experts in the region, a mystery has unfolded.

Those experts, however, are leaning pretty well towards something that makes a little more sense: the giant wrymouth eel (Cryptacanthodes giganteus).

The first among them was Keith Chandler of Seaside Aquarium. Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport believed it was a monkeyface eel, however.

Chandler was much more certain, actually based on the teeth.

“I've got a stuffed one here in the aquarium,” Chandler told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “It has those teeth. But you can't see them like you can in the photo, because the example is all shriveled and lets you see the teeth more.”

Getting deeper into the experts, at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Marine Fishery Research Project Leader Leif K. Rasmuson chimed in and said he was leaning towards the giant wrymouth as well.

From there, Rasmuson contacted about 20 others in other wildlife agencies and academia, including Milton Love, a famed marine biologist and author on the subject of fish.

“The teeth are throwing folks,” Rasmuson told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “The tables tilted much more towards Giant Wrymouth. 75% Wrymouth, 25% something else.”

Rasmuson said that while experts leaned towards the giant wrymouth, he emphasized that no one was completely sure. The photos didn't reveal enough details. Love – probably the big expert in the field – told Rasmuson he was inclined to think it was giant wrymouth, but he too wasn't 100 percent certain.

So, it's a bit of a mystery.

How does one find out what it truly is? Rasmuson said a sample for genetic testing would be nice.

Photo of giant wrymouth courtesy WDFW

Yet a monkey eel it likely is not. Photos of those have a fairly different shape in general, although it's close in some ways.

In any case, neither the monkeyface prickleback or the wrymouth eel are actually eels. They may have a similarly-shaped body, but they don't fall under the fish order Anguilliformes with true eels.

Boothe added there are two kinds of wrymouth as well: the dwarf and the giant.

“The 'regular' wrymouth gets to be about 38 inches in length, the giant wrymouth can reach up to 48 inches in length,” she said.

Some on the Washington coast may have a clearer answer someday. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) the giant wrymouth is eel-like with a broad head that is flat on top. It's quite a common fish up and down the Oregon and Washington coast, with a range from the Bearing Sea down through California.

“It is found on soft bottoms, where it creates and lives in burrows. It is found in depths from 6 to192 m (20-630 ft),” WDFW said on its species website.

The giant wrymouth is a pale and reddish brown with all kinds of dark blotches. There are scales on some areas, and some of its fins have spots as well.

The dwarf wrymouth has no scales, but is otherwise fairly similar to its “giant” cousin.

Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours


More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

Coastal Spotlight

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Great Coastal Gale of '07 Tore Into Oregon Coast 15 Years Ago - Video
The storm changed parts of the region forever. History, Bandon, Coos Bay, Newport, Lincoln City, Manzanita, Cannon Beach, Seaside, Astoria
How Storms - Even Solar Storms - May Affect Whales on Oregon / Washington Coast
Why do they disappear? Does it disturb them at all? Marine sciences
Attending Seaside Aquarium This Month Helps Feed the Hungry on Oregon Coast -...
Patrons pay admission to the aquarium with two cans of food per person. Seaside events
Warm Sunsets to Raucous Oregon Coast Storms: Upclose at Cannon Beach's Schoon...
One of the major highlights is that beachfront lawn. Cannon Beach hotels, lodging reviews
Washington Coast Holidays Include Crab Pot Tree, Santa with Pirates, Music, Food
Holiday happs from Ilwaco up through Westport. Washington coast events
Famed Holiday Show Tradition Back on Oregon Coast, at Newport Performing Arts...
The Christmas Show! is finally back, Dec. 16 and 17. Newport events
Cyber Monday for Oregon Coast Too: Giving the Beach for Christmas
Give a night or two at the coast, or books, hoodies, T's. weather
Orcas Spotted Again on N. Oregon Coast - First Time This Pod Recorded Here
A pod of four were photographed on November 23. Marine sciences

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on Oregon Coast Beach Connection
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright Oregon Coast Beach Connection. Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted