The desiccated remains were later identified as a type of deep-sea skate.
The creepy skeleton of a mysterious sea creature has turned up on a beach in New Zealand, reports RT.
The unnerving discovery was made over the weekend by Christchurch resident Hanna Mary, who stumbled upon the dried-up skeleton near the Rakaia Huts in Canterbury while cleaning up the beach of debris after a big storm.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the eerie skeleton — which was found washed up on the beach on Saturday — looks completely out of this world. In fact, Mary herself confessed that initially suspected she had come across “something alien.”
The bizarre sea creature had wings adorned with claws, two long claspers, and a long tail. In addition, the skeleton sported an elongated head and a ferocious-looking mouth, with sharp fangs.
The desiccated remains were a truly frightful sight to behold — scary enough to make Mary scream in dismay when she realized that the object she had picked up in her hand wasn’t a piece of plastic or driftwood.
“My first thought was that it was something alien, but I was more fascinated than anything,” she said in a statement.
Puzzled by her finding, she took the skeleton to a taxidermist in hopes that he might have some idea as to what the creature was. When her query remained unanswered, Mary snapped a few photos of the peculiar remains and posted them on social media to try and get them identified.
Needless to say, the strange skeleton found near the Rakaia Huts became the object of wild speculation on the internet, as people tried to guess what it was.
“A penguin? LOL I don’t know, looks bloody creepy,” someone commented on the photos, while other Facebook users suggested that the creature could be either a “flying squirrel fish” or “alien, definitely alien.”
“My guess is that it’s some sort of deep-sea skate, maybe a Bathyraja abyssicola, that might have been picked up by a trawler,” Mary told the New Zealand Herald.
The mystery was eventually cleared by Dr. Malcolm Francis from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand. The expert identified the skeleton as belonging to a male Dipturus nasutus, also known as the New Zealand rough skate.
“It’s like a flat shark, it has a skeleton made out of cartilage. They spend much of their time on the bottom,” said Francis, noting that these sea creatures are called rough skates “because they are very prickly.”
As he explained, the claspers that can be seen on the skeleton are only found in the males of the species and are actually used during mating.
“They look like legs, but they’re not,” said Francis, explaining that their role is to help the male hang onto his partner during mating. The claws on the wings of the creature apparently serve the same purpose and are called alar spines.
The New Zealand rough skate is a cartilaginous fish closely related to sharks, similar to manta rays. This marine animal can grow up to 3.2 feet long and lives at depths ranging between 32 feet and nearly 5,000 feet under the surface of the ocean.
As Francis pointed out, rough skates are sometimes caught by commercial fishermen, who strip them of their wings — an edible delicacy — and only sell this particular body part.
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