Even after centuries of exploration, the ocean still holds both its mysteries and our fascination. Although we know more today about the world's oceans and their denizens than ever before, every once in a while the sea spits up something so strange, so unexpected, that the world releases a collective gasp as they wonder what the heck it could be.
Such was the case August 16 when the currents of the Mediterranean Ocean deposited a 13-foot-long, smelly corpse on the shores of the village of Villaricos in Andalusia, an autonomous community of Spain. An initial report in the Spanish publication Lavante described the strange, horned body — which was found in multiple pieces — as "what might seem like a big fish, but in an advanced state of decomposition." Locals joked that it was a "mutant fish" or some kind of Loch Ness Monster.
The media jumped right on it, of course. Some sites called it a "horned sea monster." The popular blog Boing Boing called it a "dragon." Some people speculated that it might be an oarfish, which is actually a rarely seen kind of giant herring that can grow up to 55 feet long.
But now the experts have weighed in and we're sorry to report that it's not a dragon, a Loch Ness Monster, or even an oarfish. "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." (Scapulocoracoids are bones common to most vertebrates. You've got them: they're called shoulder blades.)
So there we go, another mystery solved. Alas, the ancient maps that once identified areas of the ocean with the words "here there be dragons" have yet to be proven true. But it's good to know that the ocean still has a few surprises for us, even in cases where they're just dead, smelly corpses.
Related on MNN: