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10/15/2013 11:57 am ET | Updated Oct 15, 2013

Oarfish Discovered Near Catalina Measures 18 Feet, Is Nearly Intact (VIDEO)

Marine science instructor Jasmine Santana was snorkeling off the coast of Southern California when she spotted something unusual on the sea floor: a giant fish.

So the curious researcher grabbed the limp marine animal by the tail and dragged it to shore. It was only later, when Santana's co-workers at the Catalina Island Marine Institute examined the nearly intact carcass, that they realized she had found an oarfish in Catalina waters.

The 18-foot oarfish is a significant find for any marine scientist, but, for CIMI researchers, it's the "discovery of a lifetime," according to local TV station KTLA.

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Oarfish are rarely seen since the long, bony fish tend to reside in deep-sea waters, only rising to the surface after their deaths. CIMI scientists believe the oarfish found in Catalina recently died of natural causes.

However, experts at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will test tissue samples in order to confirm the initial findings, ABC affiliate KEYT-TV reports.

In August, a similar serpent-like fish washed ashore in Spain. Although local Villaricos residents and officials were baffled by the appearance of the creature, ichthyologist Gary Griggs speculated the carcass was that of an oarfish.

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