When joggers Nik Pyselman and Cam Twigley spotted a strange blue shape in shallow waters on their local beach in New Zealand last month, they decided to investigate. What they found was a 1.5-metre cannibalistic hermaphrodite.

It sounds like a fishy story – and that's because it is. The strange creature was a long-snouted lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox), a nocturnal predator normally found far offshore and around 1,000 metres beneath the surface.


"It looked like it had been washed in and was struggling to swim back out to sea," Pyselman told Taranaki Daily News. "I've heard of people catching them on long lines but I've never seen one myself."

Known to fisherman as "cannibal fish" (thanks to an occasional appetite for their own kind), these deep-sea creatures are rarely seen and not much is known about them, though they are considered widespread across most of the world's oceans. We also know that adolescent lancetfish are hermaphroditic, meaning they possess both male and female sex organs. 


Alepisaurus ferox can grow to over two metres (6.5ft) in length. Add to that their prominent fangs and sail-like dorsal fins (and those cannibalistic habits), and you've got yourself one fearsomely impressive predator.

Locals hoping for their own sighting of the elusive lancetfish shouldn't get their hopes up, though. A fisherman in the area says he's yet to see one in his 20 years of work. "It could be the El Niño bringing in some unusual weather patterns ... We’re starting to see a lot of deep-sea fish start to move in a bit closer."


Top header image: Ryan Somma, Flickr