A huge, mysterious creature measuring more than 23ft long and weighing an estimated 4 tonnes has washed up on a Welsh beach and is baffling scientists.
The strange beast was discovered on Broad Haven South Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, last week and reported to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CISP).
But as the remains continue to decompose, experts are racing against the clock to identify what the creature is and have sent a sample away for testing.
The CSIP stranding coordinator for Wales, Matthew Westfield, said, “It’s very difficult to tell for certain what it is because it’s so badly decomposed.
“It died at sea and had been dead for a while before it washed up on the beach, so it would have come in with one of the high tides.”
In pictures from the scene, there is no obvious feature of the monster’s biology; only grey husk and bone stand out with no limbs or head visible.
And though Mr Westfield identified a spine, measuring some 23 feet long, the animal’s true size is still uncertain.
He continued: “Basically the whole head element was either decomposed or missing or pointing in the wrong direction.
“We were unable to say, ‘right, there’s the head element of it’ so we suspect it could have been longer.”
Although, a closer inspection of the remains did offer further clues.
Matthew said: “Basically I got a report of a blob, a huge thing that washed up on a beach.
“And the lady that actually reported it to us had done a bit of research and had initially come back saying that she thought it might have been a basking shark.
“Well by the pictures we initially didn’t think so because of the size of it and because it is rare to get basking sharks wash up on the beaches around Wales.
“So initially we thought it was going to be a whale but when we actually got there and did an exam on it, it became clear that it definitely wasn’t.
“The initial clue was the smell of rotten fish. Decomposing fish smell different to decomposing whales.
“Then we got closer and we had a look at the bone structure which indicated that it definitely was not a whale and it was going to be some sort of fish.”
Mr Westfield now believes the colossal creature is that of a basking shark, but he still can’t be certain.
He said: “We couldn’t say 100% because there are other species it could be, even including the whale shark – which is actually a bit bigger but then it could have been a juvenile.”
He continued: “We’ve taken pictures, we’ve taken a couple of samples, and we’ve sent them off to the Natural History Museum and some of the specialist teams there, along with London Zoo.
“We just have to wait and see what happens.”
As for what killed the beast, that will likely never be known.
Matthew said: “It’s completely impossible to say what the cause of death was.
“It could be anything from its age to bycatch, to injury to anything else.”
Once it’s identity is confirmed, the sea beast must be either buried where it is, removed from the beach in chunks or left for nature to run its course.
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