Some sort of horned "sea monster" that washed ashore on a Spanish beach last week has stumped marine experts who hypothesize that the carcass could be an oarfish, a thresher shark, or perhaps even the storied Loch Ness Monster.
A beachgoer stumbled upon the head of the 13-foot-long beast on Luis Siret Beach in the Andalusian village of Villaricos, according to NBC News.
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"A lady found one part, and we helped her retrieve the rest," Civil Protection coordinator Maria Sanchez told local media outlets. "We have no idea what it was. It really stank, as it was in the advanced stages of decomposition."
The Program in Defense of Marine Animals, or Promar, has conducted preliminary tests on the organism, which revealed that it is in fact a "species of fish," but it's not yet clear what species.
"It's hard to tell," David Shiffman, a University of Miami shark researcher who blogs about marine biology on Southern Fried Science, told NBC News in a Twitter exchange, "but the official guess that it could be a thresher shark seems plausible. Certainly the tail looks oarfish-y. It maybe could be a thresher shark — but nothing else."
Oarfish are ribbony fish that can grow up to 33 feet long in some regions. They do have distinct dorsal fin rays on their heads, which could account for the "horns" witnesses reported seeing.
Another expert, however, seems convinced that the creature is a type of shark.
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"That is definitely a shark skeleton," Florida State University ichthyologist Dean Grubbs told NBC News. "The elements toward the back were confusing me, but those are the lower caudal fin supports. The 'horns' are the scapulocoracoids which support the pectoral fins."
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