With an odd, greenish pattern, this creature didn't look like anything the locals had ever seen when it washed up in Folly Beach, just South of Charleston, S.C. on Friday, March 22. Some were quick to call it a "sea monster," but scientists say its actual identity is a bit more mundane.
Dr. Shane Boylan, a veterinarian at the South Carolina Aquarium (SCA), saw a photograph of the beast and quickly identified it as a sturgeon. He said the body shape and the bone plates along the side gave it away. And the strange colors? They're likely evidence of rotting, or what Boylan calls a "necrotic tan." Most sturgeon are silvery or greenish, so beach-goers who had never seen a rotten one might not have recognized it.
After Live 5 News posted the image on Facebook, commenter Cindy Fabian noted, "It looks like the result of the BP oil disaster to me; serious mutation!"
It's not clear what's become of the specimen. The aquarium's Kate Dittloff told The Huffington Post that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources which normally cleans up dead animals, would have only done so if the creature had been deemed a threat.
Sturgeons have been around for millions of years, experts say. But monstrous or otherwise, they've been washing up less frequently in recent years, Boylan said. Eighty-five percent of sturgeon species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The main reason for that, experts say, is overfishing. Sturgeon roe is prized as caviar.