Need proof Florida is truly the weirdest state of the Union?
Just look at one of its latest discoveries: A giant salamander that is spotted like a leopard and has fronds resembling a Christmas tree on its head.
The scientific journal PLOS One published a study about the supersized salamander on Wednesday.
The salamander, officially called the “reticulated siren,” measures up to 2 feet in length when fully grown, and are completely aquatic, according to National Geographic.
David Steen, a wildlife ecologist at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center who discovered the creature said its existence has been rumored for decades.
“It was basically this mythical beast,” Steen told National Geographic.
He first saw the creature in 2009, but his team wasn’t able to find other samples for another five years. An official study was finally completed in 2018 and just published in PLOS ONE.
Some locals have called the animal a leopard eel, though it is neither a leopard nor an eel.
So far, researchers said the reticulated siren lives in northwest Florida and southern Alabama and has two forelegs, no back legs, and a set of gills just behind its head.
Steen told the Revelator there were a variety of reasons why a 2-foot salamander might escape scientific discovery for so long.
“One, this creature is completely aquatic. It lives in swamps and mud. These are not really places where people spend a lot of their time,” he said. “It’s also superficially similar to another species, the greater siren, so unless you knew what you were looking for you would probably assume it was something we already knew.”