Christchurch resident Hanna Mary was doing her civic duty cleaning up debris from a local beach following an intense storm when she happened upon the remains of a truly bizarre creature.
This past Saturday, Mary and her mother were cleaning the beach by the Rakaia Huts in Canterbury when they stumbled across the grotesque, fanged skeleton. Understandably, Mary screamed in fright when she discovered it wasn’t just a piece of driftwood or a plastic bag.
“My first thought was that it was something alien, but I was more fascinated than anything,” Mary told The New Zealand Herald.
Whatever it was, the creature had claws on its wings, two claspers, a long tail, an elongated head and ferocious-looking fangs. Nightmare stuff by most people’s standards.
The find was made even more unusual as the beach is very rocky with a steep drop off to the shore, making it almost impossible to swim there.
Mary was reluctant to move the skeleton at first, fearing it might be poisonous, but curiosity got the best of her and she brought it to her taxidermist neighbor who was equally stumped as to what the crazy critter could have been.
“I uploaded the photos on Facebook and we were all taking guesses, most people said skate,” Mary continued.
“My guess it that it’s some sort of deep-sea skate, maybe a Bathyraja abyssicola, that might have been picked up by a trawler.”’
Facebook users offered such suggestions as: “A penguin? Lol I don’t know, looks bloody creepy,” “Alien definitely alien. Out with the tin foil hats” and “flying squirrel fish.”
Putting an end to all of the wild speculation, Dr Malcolm Francis confirmed the creature as a male Dipturus nasutus AKA a 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,” Francis said, adding that the wing-claws, known as alar spines, and the claspers are only found on male skates and are used for mating.
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