Strangely beautiful …. the Opah fish

Colleague Greg Brett has been putting the finishing touches to one of the most vividly marked fish species – the opah. He comments as follows:

OPAH  FISH  (Lampris guttatus)

An 80cm specimen of this species was received and mounted at the East London Museum. The fish was apparently found washed ashore at Cebe on the Wild Coast, retrieved and deposited at the East London Aquarium who in turn kindly donated the specimen to the museum.

Little is known about the ecology and biology of the species because they are so infrequently encountered. This is not surprising since they are considered to be oceanic and epipelagic; that is they live mainly far from land and in water depths from the surface to 500 m. In addition, in common with many epipelagic fish species they most likely only come to the surface at night. This is generally a response to prey migration (squid and lantern fish)which in the open ocean is vertical rather than long-shore.

Morphologically the pectoral fin is very large and the musculature attached to the fin extremely well developed. Despite the well  developed tail fin, this indicates that the pectoral fin is a primary instrument in propulsion. (Imagine a swimming penguin)  The body colours are lavish and fresh specimens are incredibly beautiful. They apparently grow very large up to 150kg.

This is the first record of this fish from the Border region. They are known mostly from wash-ups in temperate seas around the world. They are also occasionally inadvertently caught by anglers. In South Africa most specimens have been recorded from the Western Cape.

Greg Brett adding colouration to the fish model. Artistic insights bring life to the mount


OPAH FISH (Lampris guttatus)

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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