It was a mysterious looking horned monster that washed up on a beach in Villaricos, Spain, a strange beast that defied identification. The photos of the unidentified carcass spurred speculation on the Internet and around the world. And when it was suggested the exotic animal decomposing in the sun was an oarfish, some accepted it. Others, however, did not, because, well, since when have oarfish had horns?
Over at The Inquisitr, they proposed in an Aug. 23 article that the horned monster -- and others like it, such as the Montauk Monster and the Beast of Tenby -- be heretofore referred to as "sea chupacabras." Explains The Inquisitr: "We think it communicates both the seafaring nature as well as the mystery of origin that unites the Spanish seabeast, the Montauk monster, and those globs of good that always wash up places and fascinate people."
The sea chupacabra in question, the lengthy creature that looked a bit snake-like upon the sand (albeit with protruding "horns" in the head region), was thought by some to be an oarfish, the same ribbon-like fish that many modern marine biologists and ichthyologists believe inspired tales of sea serpents when adventurers braved the bounding main. But one shark researcher, University of Miami's David Shiffman, told NBC News via Twitter that the horned monster might be a shark.
“It’s hard to tell… but the official guess that it could be a thresher shark seems plausible.”
Shiffman's uncertainty was followed by a more definitive corroboration from Florida State University ichthyologist Dean Grubbs in a follow-up email.
"That is definitely a shark skeleton," Grubbs wrote 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."
Others were less than enthusiastic about identifying something decomposing and partially obscured by being somewhat buried in the sand.
And what about those horns? When an oarfish was the popular guess, some surmised that the horns were mere fish bones that had extended through the rotting carcass.
So the sea chupacabra is a shark? Perhaps. And it still just might be a slithery sea serpent-like beast -- an oarfish.
The horned monster began making its media rounds when the Spanish press reported its presence. Speculation and jokes about the Loch Ness monster and other cryptozoological creatures quickly followed.
Promar, or the Program in Defense of Marine Animals, has conservationists working to identify the mystery sea beast. Currently, the best guess is that it is a thresher shark (due to a body-long caudal fin that is distinctive to the species). Francisco Toledano, a coordinator for Promar, noted that the creature was some "species of fish." The remains are 13 feet long.
So... Is it an oarfish? A thresher shark? Some kind of strange sea serpent or dragon, the same as once gave birth to aquatic legends? Or is it some previously unknown species of fish? If so, The Inquistr's name for the horned monster of Spain -- sea chupacabra -- should be given due consideration.