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Oarfish? Mysterious 13-Foot Long 'Sea Serpent' Carcass With Horns Found Washed Up On Spain's Shore Puzzles Scientists (PHOTOS)

By Julia Lynn Rubin | Aug 22, 2013 10:51 AM EDT

Giant Oarfish
A gigantic fish carcass with strange horns jutting from its head washed up on the shores of Spain last week, its identity puzzling scientists. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

A giant species of fish that can grow up to 56 feet long, the oarfish has long inspired the "sea serpent" myth in the waters of Spain, as it is not only incredibly strange-looking, but rarely found. According to The Inquisitr, a huge carcass resembling the odd fish washed up on Spanish shores last week, its identity puzzling scientists.

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Found on Luis Siret Beach in the village of Villaricos, the long, dead giant fish was found with bizarre horns on its head. Already in the late stages of decomposition, it smelled badly, according to local authorities, and researchers from Spain's Program in Defense of Marine Animals were called upon to identify the animal. The fish was already so decomposed that researchers had to work off of pictures to study the remains, and some suggested that it might be fox shark.

"It's hard to tell," David Shiffman, a University of Miami shark researcher and blogger on Southern Fried Science, tweeted to NBC News, "but the official guess that it could be a thresher shark seems plausible."

United States servicemen holding a 23-foot (7.0 m) Giant Oarfish, found washed up on the shore near San Diego, California in 1996.  PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons
United States servicemen holding a 23-foot (7.0 m) Giant Oarfish, found washed up on the shore near San Diego, California in 1996. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Shiffman also suggested that the giant fish could be an oarfish, noting that it's tail "looks oarfish-y." Online commenters wrote that it looked like some mutant species of fish, some joking that it might be the Loch Ness Monster.

To prevent any health issues, the giant fish carcass was buried by the local Civil Defense.

A rare oarfish sighting was captured on film in 2011, showing a 26-foot long fish swimming with undulated dorsal fins that helped it glide through the water. Thin and very long, the oarfish is a member of the herring family, an elusive animal despite its prominent size and strange features. Because encounters with the oarfish are so rare, little is known about its biology and ecology, though members of its families are known to have inhabitated all corners of the world's oceans.

Click here to see photos of the mysterious fish carcass that has puzzled scientists.

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