This Insane Demon Fish Is the One You See on the Beach Runs of Your Nightmares

Photo courtesy Melinda Bruton

Photo courtesy Melinda Bruton

Those of you who have read me carefully over the years will know that I believe running on the beach is overrated. As I say in The Runner's Rule Book (Rodale, 2009),

What's not to like?

How about a loose, shifting surface. Driftwood and garbage. The vaguely funky smell of a Dumpster behind a Red Lobster. And tiny, irritating granules in your socks and shoes, which will be there for the next 2 1/2 months. ...

The sad truth is that running on the beach is never quite as good as you've been led to believe.

I understand that this is a minority opinion. So be it.

As if I needed another reason to dislike running on the beach—which I don't!—along comes this headline, from a little newspaper in northwest Oregon called The Daily Astorian:

Lancetfish Puts Jogger on Guard

Which, if you ask me, is laughably sedate, given the photos accompanying the story. Sort of like summing up A Nightmare on Elm Street with the headline "Man In Hat Gives Residents Pause."

My own headline, above, does a much better job of capturing the essence of the story. Seeing as how the fish in question is, in fact, an insane demon fish sent from the depths of hell, such as one might encounter while running on the beach in a feverish, bad-seafood-fueled nightmare, where your deepest, darkest fears are made manifest and where even the most mundane objects have mutated into grotesque, freak-show horrors.

I mean, just look at it!



The woman who actually did find this fish, a local runner named Melinda Bruton, is braver than I. Instead of instantly soiling herself, which would have been my Plan A, she stopped to snap a few photos, including the one shown here.

As reported in the Daily Astorian piece:

At first the Cannon Beach woman thought it was a barracuda washed ashore.

But after sending a photo to the Seaside Aquarium, she learned it was a lancetfish, one of two or three reported each year, according to Keith Chandler, the aquarium’s general manager. ...

“Look at those teeth — they’re pointed backwards,” Chandler said. “Once they get hold of something with those, it’s a one-way ticket.”

Curious, I did some more research. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

Lancetfish have large mouths and sharp teeth, indicating a predatory mode of life. Their watery muscle is not suited to fast swimming and long pursuit, so they likely are ambush predators, using their narrow body profile and silvery colouration to conceal their presence, then use their large dorsal fin to generate large acceleration, and large mouth and teeth to engulf prey before it can escape.

Notice all those uses of the word large? That's not by mistake. The lancetfish can grow up to 6 1/2 feet in length.

Not inches. Feet.

Wikipedia also notes that "the reproductive system of lancetfish is something of a mystery."

Next time you stumble across one while romping through the surf, why don't you look into that mystery. I'll be running well inland, taking my chances with cars and trucks.