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Villaricos Horned Serpent
Spain Horn
Artist's rendering of the creature
Hispania
Map of Spain
Background
Type Sea Serpent
First Sighting August 15, 2013
Last Sighting Unknown
Country Spain
Habitat The Atlantic
Possible Population Small

A mysterious, horned, marine creature approximately 13-feet long was found, washed ashore on the beaches of Villaricos, Spain. A woman on Luis Siret Beach first discovered the head of the sea monster, then the body separately, further down the beach.

The Sighting

Residents of Villaricos were baffled last week, when a strange-looking sea creature washed ashore a beach in the southern coastal town Thursday. The mysterious carcass has been called everything from "horned sea monster" to a "mutant fish."

After a beach goer reported the unusual find, authorities pulled the remains of the estimated 13-foot creature further onto the beach and cordoned off the area. According to ABC de Sevilla, the carcass exuded a strong odor and appeared to be in a state of decomposition.

María Sánchez, the civil protection coordinator for nearby Cuevas del Almanzora, speculated that mysterious marine animal may have washed in from somewhere near Africa.

"It has the shape of a snake," she described to ABC. "It's similar to a dragonfish that allegedly comes from Africa and could have been dragged by the current."

The latest in a string of "sea serpent" stories has sparked an online buzz in the past few days, thanks to the gnarly-looking pictures that surfaced in the Spanish press last week. The carcass washed up on Luis Siret Beach in the Andalusian village of Villaricos, according to the local publication Ideal, and sparked jokes about the Loch Ness monster and mutant fish.

"A lady found one part, and we helped her retrieve the rest," Civil Protection coordinator Maria Sanchez was quoted as saying. "We have no idea what it was. It really stank, as it was in the advanced stages of decomposition."

Sanchez said conservationists with the Program in Defense of Marine Animals, or Promar, were trying to identify the remains. However, Europa Press quoted a coordinator of the group, Francisco Toledano, as saying that any identification would have to be made on the basis of the images — because the decomposing remains were buried by sand.

Toledano said the preliminary analysis suggests that the 13-foot-long (4-meter-long) carcass came from a "species of fish," but he wasn't more specific. Almeria24h.com said some experts speculated that the creature could be a thresher shark (also known as fox shark, Alopias vulpinus, or "peje zorro" in Spanish). Such sharks have a distinctive caudal fin that can stretch out as long as the shark's body itself.

"It's hard to tell," David Shiffman, a University of Miami shark researcher who blogs about marine biology on Southern Fried Science, told NBC News in a Twitter exchange, "but the official guess that it could be a thresher shark seems plausible."

Shiffman said it might also be a giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne) — a ribbony fish that's typically 10 feet (3 meters) long but can grow to lengths in excess of 33 feet (10 meters). Oarfish sightings have been thought to inspire tales of sea serpents, and it's only been recently that the beast has been caught on video in its deep-sea environment.

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