The Fastest, Heaviest, Largest, Longest, & Oldest Ocean Animals

oarfish Smithsonian
The longest fish in the ocean: Oarfish photo of oarfish model taken at Smithsonian Institution

Now that the Winter Olympics are over, I thought I’d list some record-breaking ocean animals:

1. The fastest fish in the ocean is a sailfish clocked at 68.18 mph (miles per hour)or 109.73 kph (kilometers per hour).

2. The fastest shark is a mako shark measured at 60 mph (96.56 kph).

3. The heaviest bony fish is a Mola mola (ocean sunfish) that was 10 feet long and weighed 4,928 pounds.

4. The largest fish is a whale shark that was 41.5 feet long (12.6 meters) and weighed 66,000 pounds (21.5 metric tons).

5. The largest, heaviest, and longest ocean animal is a blue whale female measured at 109 feet 3.5 inches(33.27 meters) and 190 tons.

6. The longest fish is an oarfish that was 56 feet long (17 meters)

7. The longest colony (of more than one animal) of animals is a siphonophore (similar to a jellyfish) named Praya dubia that is 100-160 feet long (30-50 meters)

8. The oldest ocean animal was an ocean quahog clam named Ming who was 507 years old.

9. The oldest mammal is a bowhead whale estimated to be at least 211 years old.

10. The deepest swimming air-breathing animal is a sperm whale, which can dive to depths of 9800 feet (3 kilometers)

Some facts based on Biggest, Smallest, Fastest, and Deepest marine animals

California’s Salmon Run

salmon upstream
Salmon jumping upstream picture: Wikimedia Commons

Yee haw! It’s the time of the year when rain means it’s time to spawn. Us salmon were worried as California is in the midst of its driest year on record. But rainfall occurred in the nick of time.

You see, each year the adult salmon at sea (in this case the Pacific Ocean) return up the rivers to the place of their birth. There we spawn (that is lay eggs) on gravel beds, and then we die. The young salmon that hatch then grow up in those rivers before swimming out to the ocean to mature. There they grow up and gain weight. Those salmon then return to their place of birth and spawn, and the whole salmon life cycle is complete.

We are called andromous, which means “running upward,” i.e. our salmon run is upstream.

The really cool thing is that human scientists have figured out that we have a “magnetic map” in our head that helps us navigate. They think we “sense changes in the intensity and angle of the Earth’s magnetic field to establish our position in the ocean.”

Not only that, they think that we are born with this magnetic map and do not learn it during our childhood. I agree with that assumption.

Scientists also think that creatures such as sea turtles, sharks, and whales may navigate in the same way as us salmon.

Did you know that there are 5 species of salmon found off the Pacific coast? They are Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye salmon.

Parts of this post based on this article “Pacific Salmon Migrate with a ‘Magnetic Map’”

Lionfish: An Introduced Species Gone Awry

lionfish: introduced species gone awry
Lionfish: Public Enemy #1? Photo by Cherilyn Jose

From Lionfish POV: Psst, humans. First they capture lionfish for their home aquariums and we are considered deadly beauties. Then a few aquarists let us go (accidentally or on purpose) in the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans and poof! We have become the scourge of the oceans. That is because we reproduce prolifically and can eat anything that fits in our mouths. Lionfish hunts are regularly held, and some humans have even tried to condition wild sharks to eat us. That saddens me because we haven’t done anything other than what our biology tells us, and now we are public enemy #1 in the oceans.

From Human POV: Lionfish hail from the Western Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, but in the last 20 years have literally taken over the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans. The main reason why is because humans have overfished the natural predators, such as grouper, of the lionfish.

Introduced species have been studied intensively throughout the terrestrial world, and especially on islands where the invasive species are more apparent. In the ocean however, it is much harder to study introduced species due to fact that there are no real boundaries there.

The main tactic to reduce the unnatural lionfish population has been to kill them. Dr. Sylvia Earle, known as “Her Deepness” for her pioneering Jacques Cousteau type exploration and passion, says of that, “Kill kill kill…is not the solution, Lionfish have replaced a void created by the loss of apex predators, the best way to protect the ocean reefs is to create more Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to bring back healthy numbers of predators, that will in turn bring balance back to the reef.”

Creating Marine Protected Areas has been shown to increase fish that are fished in the areas surrounding the MPAs, so MPAs are really a win win situation both for humans and ocean denizens.

Author’s note: The Lionfish is one of my favorite fish to take care of in aquariums. I always stayed clear of their venomous spines, and they were quite fun to feed. They have the potential to eat until they burst, but there is something very satisfying about feeding an animal. In the lionfish’s case, feeding them until I hoped they were satiated. The particular tank I used to take care of also had a porcupine pufferfish, which is another favorite aquarium fish of mine. Porcupinefish are truly the “dogs of the ocean.”

The Real Fish from Finding Nemo

The Tank Gang from Finding Nemo includes the following common aquarium fish:

the real fish of Finding Nemo
The Tank Gang from Finding Nemo

Coral, Marlin, and Nemo = Ocellaris or False Percula Clownfish, Clown Anemonefish

In a home aquarium, clownfish are much easier to take care of than the anemones! The anemones demand high water quality and specific lighting. Clownfish, in pairs, can live fine without a live anemone in their tank.

Gill = Moorish Idol

Moorish idols are very hard to keep in captivity, please leave them to the experts to take care of.

Bubbles = Yellow tang
Yellow Tangs are herbivores, and in an aquarium can lose their bright yellow color if their diet does not include enough plant matter.

Bloat = Porcupine Pufferfish, Porcupinefish

Pufferfish fill themselves up with water to puff up, not with air (except in an emergency) like Bloat in the movie. There is enough tetrodotoxin in one pufferfish to kill up to 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote!

Gurgle = Royal Gramma, Fairy Basslet
Royal Gramma really are purple and yellow like Gurgle! In a home aquarium, Royal Gramma are peaceful, hardy, and eat readily. In the wild they eat plankton and are cleaner fish.

Deb Flo from Finding Nemo
Black and White Damselfish

Deb/Flo = Black and White Damselfish
Deb is based on a real damselfish with black and white coloration, not blue and white like her. As in the movie, all residents of aquarium tanks can see out (I have SCUBA dived in public aquarium tanks and can attest to that!), as well as see their own reflection at certain angles. Many fish in home aquariums recognize the person(s) that feeds them!

Jacques from Finding Nemo
Pacific Cleaner Shrimp

Jacques = Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp

A cleaner shrimp is omnivorous, which means it eats both plant and animal matter. A cleaner shrimp does clean other fish at cleaning stations in the wild, but will also scavenge for food.

Peach from Finding Nemo is a Pink Sea Star
Pink Sea Star

Peach = Sea star

Sea stars, or starfish are scavengers. They do not have eyes like Peach, but very simple eyes at the end of each arm that sense light and dark. Sea stars do have a mouth under their body like Peach. A sea star can regenerate a leg if it is cut or bit off!

Click here for The Real Sharks (and Fish!) of Finding Nemo Part 2
Click here for What Type of Fish is Dory in Finding Dory?

Why Atlantic Bluefin Tuna May Become Extinct: The True Price of Sushi

fishing for bluefin tuna might cause their extinction
Bluefin Tuna photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium

There’s no feeling in the world like swimming at my top speed of 43.5 mph (70 kph), and sensing a bait ball in the water. A bait ball is when small schooling fishes like anchovies or sardines form a tight ball when predators are near. Their instinct is safety in numbers. To top level predators like me, it’s a dream come true! I live in the open ocean where food is scarce, and I have to be opportunistic whenever possible, or else I swim with an empty stomach.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tunny, and I am an Atlantic bluefin tuna. You most likely have encountered me at your local sushi restaurant where I am called “maguro.” Did you know that I am quickly becoming an endangered species? Atlantic bluefin tuna will become extinct if we keep getting fished at current rates. My counterparts in the Black Sea have already become extinct. In the last 40 years, bluefin tuna have declined by 72% in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, and by 82% in the Western Atlantic Ocean.

There are quotas in place to try and prevent overfishing by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), but that does not stop illegal fishing beyond those quotas. One record breaking bluefin tuna sold for a whopping $735,000! We can grow to be 990 pounds (450 kg), which is a lot of sushi.

The danger of fishing for tuna is not just that we may become extinct, but many fishing methods kill other animals during the process. This is called bycatch. On land, the equivalent would be hunting for deer, but also killing squirrels, birds, bears, and wolves along the way. Longline fishing sets out bait hooks at fixed intervals over a fishing line that may be several miles long. In the course of targeting tuna, animals such as seabirds, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, and whales may also be caught. Those animals either need air to breathe, or must swim constantly to breathe, and they die when caught in a fishing line.

You can help! Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch App and avoid eating anything (including me!) on their red list.

Watch The Black Fish’s video about bluefin tuna

UPDATE: A single bluefin tuna has sold for a record-breaking 1.7 million US dollars!

UPDATE 2016: Pacific Bluefin population down by 97% Washington Post article “Sushi-alert: grim outlook for bluefin tuna”