Most people would probably agree that the ocean is the most mysterious place on our planet. It covers 70% of the earth's surface, and yet there are vast amounts of it that remain unexplored; in fact, scientists estimate that despite all of our advancements in underwater technology, we have still only explored a rather minute 5% of it.
With that in mind, it's no wonder that from time to time strange-looking creatures get washed up onto the shore. New ocean-dwelling species are being discovered all the time, and sometimes they end up coming to us rather than the other way around. Then there are the bizarre and seldom spotted animals that live in the deepest depths that, when washed up ashore, provide a rare opportunity for scientists to discover more about them. Finally there are the seriously creepy-looking animal corpses that take much effort just to identify exactly what they are.
Whatever category these 15 creatures from the ocean fall into, one thing's for certain -- they will probably make you think twice about dipping your toe in the sea next time you're at the beach!
15 East River Monster
This animal corpse wouldn't look out of place on the set of a horror movie. It was discovered on a beach under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York on July 22, 2012, and is similar in appearance to the Montauk Monster of 2008. This creature, which has become known as the 'East River Monster', was found by Denise Ginley, who told The Huffington Post: “We found the dead creature lying on the strip of sand beside the East River, on the Manhattan side. ... It looked like the tide probably washed the carcass up there along with some driftwood.”
The jury is still out on what exactly the animal is; the NYC Parks Department discarded of the corpse before any kind of analysis could be performed. A spokesperson said at the time that it was a cooked pig, but photographer Ginley refuted this claim, saying "the feet are not pig-like at all... No hooves or cloven feet to be seen — it definitely had five toes on all its paws, front and back."
14 Unknown Whale Species
When a young biology teacher came across this animal carcass in St George, Alaska, in June 2014 he initially believed it to be the corpse of a Baird's beaked whale. However, upon closer inspection, the 24 feet (7.3 meters) long body looked different to the usual specimens; the dorsal fin was too large and floppy, the flesh too dark and although it was too short to be adult of the species, its teeth showed signs of old age.
After a wealth of scientific tests it was found that this carcass was that of a whole new species entirely -- one that has never been seen alive. Phillip Morin, a molecular geneticist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center said of the shocking and extremely rare find: "We don't know how many there are, where they're typically found, anything. But we're going to start looking."
13 Blue Dragon
This stunning sea slug - or Glaucus Atlanticus to give it its scientific name - was found washed ashore on a beach in Queensland, Australia, in November 2015. It was most likely in pursuit of its favorite prey close to the shoreline; the blue bottle jellyfish, whose sting cells it then stores on its body as protection against potential predators such as fish and birds.
Tempting as it may be, you definitely wouldn't want to hold one of these alien-like creatures. Despite growing up to only 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) in length, they produce a powerful sting from their wing-like appendages that is said to be extremely painful for anyone unlucky enough to come into contact with one. In fact, they are so venomous that they are fully capable of killing other poisonous sea creatures such as the much-feared Portuguese man-o-war, which incidentally is another of its preferred delicacies.
12 Lake Macquarie Creature
This terrifying carcass was found washed up by Lake Macquarie in New South Wales, Australia in March 2016. Tourist Ethan Tipper was understandably perplexed when he came across the mystery creature, so posted photos to the internet to see if anyone would be able to figure out what kind of animal it was.
Though it may look like a scary crocodile-dolphin hybrid, Australian fish expert Mark McGrouther identified it as a pike eel. He told The Daily Mail Australia: "This is the first time I have ever seen one of them in the flesh. I suspect it was caught and discarded by fisherman who got more than they bargained for when they tried to reel it in."
The eels are native to the east coast of Australia where they live at great depths, sometimes travelling up to 100 meters deep in order to find prey. Though it's not clear how large this specimen was, they have been known to reach lengths of up to two meters.
11 Giant Oarfish
When not one but two giant oarfish washed up on a Californian beach in the same month in 2013 the locals were worried that it could be a sign of an impending earthquake. These deep sea creatures are rarely seen by humans due to the fact that they live at depths of around 3,000 feet, although some experts have speculated that they could be the cause of many sea serpent sightings throughout history.
The biggest of the two that washed up was a staggering 18 feet long and was found by a snorkeler who then enlisted the help of 14 other beach-goers to drag the huge corpse to the shore. While it isn't entirely clear what caused the animal's death, marine biologists believe that the creatures, which are actually poor swimmers, were probably swept up in a strong current. Phil Hastings, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said: "If they get disoriented and into the surf zone, they'll probably have trouble maneuvering back out to sea."
10 'The Ugly One'
When a frightening-looking dead animal washed up in the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug reserve in Canada in May 2010, the local community were quick to point to an old folklore legend.
According to the Kitchenuhmayooosib website: “No one knows what it is, but our ancestors used to call it the Ugly One. Rarely seen, but when seen, it’s a bad omen. Something bad will happen, according to our ancestors.” The creature is said to live in swampy creek areas where it feeds on beavers, and has only been seen several times. However, Dr. Mark Engstrom of the University of Toronto had a less sinister explanation; after looking at photos of the carcass he suggested it was probably a decomposing mink or weasel. “What has happened is that some of the hair has come off in the water. It is silly. This is a dead carcass that has fallen in the water.”
9 Giant Squid
Despite being the largest invertebrate on the planet, the giant squid has remained something of a mystery to scientists. Sightings of them in the wild are incredibly rare; video footage of one in its natural habitat was only captured in 2013 for the very first time. Because of this, when a specimen washed ashore on New Zealand's South Island in May 2015, it caused a wave of excitement.
The huge creature measured a total length of 23 feet, with each of its eyeballs being 3.15 inches wide. Though scientists were able to determine that it was an adult female, the reason it washed ashore remained a mystery. Marine biologist Megan Lewis told The Huffington Post: “There are no clear signs of death... no markings on the outside, full stomach, no foreign objects. She was still fresh and with all her parts including her eyes still intact,” Lewis added. “It suggests that she didn’t come from very far away. Somewhere close by. And the fact that they are present so close to land... is so exciting to think about!”
8 Folly Beach Monster
When a strange scaly corpse washed ashore at Folly Beach in South Carolina in 2012, the internet was sent into a frenzy with amateur sleuths attempting to figure out what kind of sea creature it was. However, despite some believing it could be evidence of a new sea-serpent like animal, the carcass, which was dubbed the 'Folly Beach Monster' was actually found to be that of an Atlantic Sturgeon.
These fish, which are covered in bony plates as opposed to scales, can grow up to a staggering 15 feet (4.6m) in length, though they usually reach between six and eight feet. They can also reach up to 60 years of age and weigh over 800 lbs (360 kg). Sadly though, the chances of seeing them in the wild are becoming increasingly slim - let alone spotting one of this huge size. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service in February 2012.
7 Panama Creature
While the 'Panama Creature' wasn't found on a beach, it's worthy of inclusion in this list purely for the creepy factor. It was found on a riverbed near the town of Cerro Azul, Panama, in September 2009, by a group of teenage boys, who claimed to have killed it with rocks after being scared it would attack them. After they sent photos of the creature to a Panamanian TV station, locals in the town grew fearful that a band of mysterious and possibly dangerous animals were roaming the area.
It wasn't long before the photos went viral online, with people speculating what type of animal the corpse belonged to. Some of the suggestions included a dolphin, a pit bull terrier, a genetic mutation, some kind of fetus and even an alien being. However, when the corpse was examined by the National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM) a few days later, it was actually found to be a male brown-throated sloth. It's thought it had been underwater for several days before it was found, causing it to become bloated and hairless.
6 Megamouth Shark
This 15ft corpse caused a great deal of excitement when it was discovered by fishermen in Pio Duran in the Philippines in January 2015. The weird-looking creature is a megamouth shark - a deep sea shark that can live up to 100 years but are rarely spotted by humans; only 60 sightings have ever been recorded. They only became a recognized species 30 years ago when one got caught in the anchor of a US Navy ship in Hawaii.
Christopher Bird, a Ph.D. student who studies deep-sea sharks at the University of Southampton in England, told The Washington Post: "It wasn't discovered really until 1976. It's only really seen when it's accidentally caught in fishermen's nets or when it is stranded on beaches. It's just a mystery."
The shark was already dead when it was found on the shore, but the cause of death remains unknown.
5 Russian Sea Monster
This creepy carcass that washed up on a remote Russian beach in June 2015 had amateur detectives and marine biologists alike perplexed. With its bird-like 'beak' and strange patches of long fur it's hard to establish what animal it resembles just by looking at the photos.
Marine biologist Nikolay Kim of Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography said: "I doubt that it lived in our waters. Most likely, the animal was brought by a warm current. We often get tropical and subtropical species here and when they cool down they stay here and then die. I can confidently say that this is some kind of a dolphin. However, it has fur. It's unusual. Dolphins do not have any fur."
Though one popular suggestion was the Ganges River dolphin, that species are usually found in the freshwater regions of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and they are also much smaller than the carcass and, of course, have no fur.
4 Conjoined Whale Calves
Researchers in Baja California, Mexico, came across a rather surprising find in January 2014 - a pair of conjoined gray whale calves. Sadly they were already dead - due to their size it is believed that they probably didn't make it to full term; instead they were likely to have been naturally aborted between 8.5 and 10.5 months (Gray whale gestation lasts for 13.5 months). Local researchers didn't spot the mother of the pair, so it's unclear whether or not she survived.
Though some were quick to point to possible radiation making its way across the Pacific from the Fukushima power plant in Japan, Jim Dines, collections manager of mammals at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California, says this is unlikely: "In the past year or so, when we have marine mammals that strand here in California and we've had the tissues tested for radiation, there's nothing there. Just because an animal like a whale has twins, doesn't mean it's been subjected to radiation. Humans have twins all the time."
3 Bonfil Beach Globster
In March of 2016, a mysterious carcass was discovered floating close to the shore by beach-goers at Bonfil Beach in Acapulco, Mexico. Measuring in at a huge 13 feet long (4 meters), the giant corpse was thought to have been brought to the shore thanks to strong currents that were affecting the area at the time.
The animal was obviously in a state of decay, yet curiously did not have a strong odor which would normally be associated with a decomposing creature. Rosa Camacho, coordinator of the Civil Guard and Fire Brigade said: "We have no idea what type of animal this is, but I do know that it does not smell bad or have a fetid aroma."
The type of animal remains a mystery, though after the photos were posted online many people have speculated about what it could be, with giant squid or a whale being popular suggestions.
2 Velella Velella
Believe it or not, this picture isn't photoshopped - it's a huge shoal of blue jellyfish-like creatures known as Velella velella that have washed ashore. There have been several incidents worldwide of these mysterious sea-dwelling animals washing up in shockingly large numbers, including a beach in South Wales, UK, in 2004.
It's thought that stormy weather is likely to be the cause of the stunning events, as the creatures - which are classed as a colonial hydroid - shoal in huge numbers, sometimes in the millions.
Steve Moon, an ecologist with Bridgend Council, said of the South Wales event: "This sort of thing does happen occasionally. It doesn't happen every year but you can normally expect them after a long series of stormy weather. It seems like these couldn't withstand the recent weather conditions. We are not going to clean the beaches because they will break down naturally and if we cleaned the beaches it will take away a food source from other creatures."
1 Zuiyo-Maru Carcass
On April 25, 1977, the Zuiyō Maru, a Japanese trawler ship sailing in New Zealand, discovered a strange corpse floating close to the shore. Measuring around 10 meters long, the carcass apparently had four large, red fins and a 2-meter-long tail. Although the ship's crew were convinced that they had discovered a new animal, the captain made the decision to dump it back into the water so not to spoil their catch.
They did take photos though, as well as its measurements and samples of its skin and skeleton so that they could undergo analysis by experts back in Japan. In the meantime their find created a huge commotion in Japan, where people grew convinced they had discovered the remains of a plesiosaurus. As a result, the shipping company sent all of their boats to try and find the corpse, but to no avail. It was probably just as well - a team of scientists later concluded that the carcass was actually most likely to be that of a basking shark.
Sources: huffingtonpost, nationalgeographic, dailymail, wikipedia, independent