In the wake of two giant oarfish washing up on the Californian shoreline within a week, social media is awash with speculation that the rarely-seen beasts are harbingers of an impending doom.
Specifically, that the appearances of the Regalecus glesne – believed to be the largest bony fish living – are a sign an earthquake could be imminent.
On Friday a 13.5ft specimen washed up on Oceanside, just five days after an 18 footer appeared near Catalina Island.
In Japan oarfish are known as Messengers from the Sea God's Palace
The elusive creatures, which are also known as ribbonfish, can reach up to 55 feet and weigh up to 600 pounds.
The fish's extreme proportions, combined with a prominent dorsal fin and undulating swimming motion, could have been the basis for ancient myths of sea-serpents.
In Japan, they are known as "Messengers from the Sea God's Palace" and are traditionally believed to be the portent of powerful earthquakes.
A 13.5ft oarfish washed up on southern California on Friday
In March 2010, both The Telegraph and The Japan Times reported an upsurge in the number of oarfish spotted and washed up along the Japanese coast.
Coupled with the devastating quake which hit the country in April the following year, a conspiracy theory was born and continues to evolve today.
But Rick Feeney, who has been studying fish for almost 35 years for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, disagrees.
Japanese believe oarfish washing ashore is an omen that a major earthquake will happen. Two giant oarfish washed up on LA beaches this week.
— Devin Obamascare (@devincf) October 21, 2013
Another dead oarfish... Earthquake everybody
— Michael Maldonado (@micah23_) October 22, 2013
“It’s probably just a coincidence,” he told CBS Local Los Angeles.
“We think that they come inshore to die actually because they’re in distress for some reason, but we don’t know what the reason is.”
This 18-ft specimen was found five days earlier near Catalina Island
While iScienceMag points out it is possible the oarfish, which can dwell at depths of between 700 and 3,000 feet, may be sensitive to seismic activity, no scientific links have be proven.
In fact, so little is know about the fish, with a 5 June paper published in the Journal of Fish Biology reporting there have been just five live observations of the giant between 2008 and 2011.
What do you think?