Fish Carcass Found on Beach Resembles Prehistoric Sea Monster

Stephanie Hall was jogging along Island Beach State Park in New Jersey when she made a strange discovery on a beach—the carcass of an ancient fish.

Hall was avoiding a seal, according to news site APP, and ran up the beach where she discovered an unidentified fish carcass and took a picture. Though she said the creature looked "bizarre" and "scary," it turned out to be the remains of an Atlantic Sturgeon.

A strange carcass turned out to be an Atlantic Sturgeon. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Atlantic Sturgeon is a 70-million-year-old species that survived the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs. They can grow up to 800 pounds and 14 feet long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are also covered with five rows of major "scutes," or bony bits of armor.

However, sturgeon are well-known to modern humans as a source of food: People have farmed and fished for them as a source of caviar. In the early 1900s, American and Canadian colonists severely over-fished sturgeons, leading to a population crash. Today, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Atlantic sturgeon as "near threatened," and state and federal law classifies them as "endangered."

Sometimes, rotting carcasses can make animals look unidentifiable in comparison to their living counterparts. An image of the infamous "Montauk Monster," which three women allegedly found on a beach in Montauk, New York, went viral in 2008. The animal seemed like some sort of creepy, off-colored critter with a beak and four paws, prompting speculation. Biologist Darren Naish found that it was actually a raccoon carcass that had partially decomposed and lost most of its fur to the elements.

The sturgeon carcass also looked significantly different from a living fish because it had dried out and partially decomposed. It was eyeless, with its bony head and scutes prominent and white.