UPDATE: Benjamin Frable, Collection Manager of Marine Vertebrates at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, told Forbes that the animal is likely a tusky eel.
“I recognized it pretty quickly as an eel. We get quite a lot of moray eel wash-ups here and they’re pretty horrifying-looking, too,” he said.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, a mysterious creature washed up on the shore.
“Apparently, the tongue of this fish is developed into a fleshly lure to attract prey to their horrible mouth!” Frable added.
The fish live in brackish waters between 100 to 300 feet in depth.
“What made this genus so weird to me is the head shape and large fangs. A lot of snake-eels have similarly point[ed] heads with eyes very far forward near the tip of the snout. This is because they tend to burrow in the sand with only their head sticking out,” he said. “The brown coloration also struck me, as many others are tan-ish or spotted. That being said, the [specimen] in the pictures could also be badly sunburnt.”
Preeti Desai of the National Audubon Society went on Twitter for help identifying the animal, which has no eyes and razor-sharp fangs. “Okay, biology twitter, what the heck is this?? Found on a beach in Texas City, TX. #wildlifeid,” she asked on Twitter.
“On first glance it looked like something from the deep sea to me,” Desai told Earth Touch News Network. “My initial thought was it might be a sea lamprey but when I got close I realized there was no way that was what it was, particularly based on the mouth.”
“We squished it around a bit, and even turned it over but couldn’t come up with any other ideas,” she said.
“This is the kind of thing that’s perfect for Twitter – there are so many scientists and researchers on the platform and they’re very willing to jump in and figure out things like this,” she said.
Biologists who responded believe that it’s a type of eel—but they weren’t exactly sure what kind.
There is a possibility that the animal is a fangtooth snake-eel, known as the tusky eel, which resides in the Gulf of Mexico.