A weirdly bloated creature, whose head has been defleshed and body looks more like a swollen, discolored beast of myth than anything real, washed up on an Australian beach last week. And though it’s anybody’s guess the identity of the stranded corpse, experts contacted by Live Science have some ideas.
Alex Tan, of Queensland, Australia, was taking a stroll on Maroochydore Beach when he made the startling discovery. Speaking into his phone camera at the time (on April 1), he said, as shared on Instagram, “I’ve stumbled across something weird. This is like one of those things you see where people claim they’ve found aliens.” The camera then quickly pans away from Tan’s face to reveal the bald, bloated creature with claws, a long tail and an exposed skull.
In the video’s comments, users speculate that the creature could be anything from a possum (as Tan believes), to a dehydrated kangaroo, and of course, an alien. Wilder guesses on social media include “mini-Chupacabra” or an “extinct marsupial.”
Despite having mentioned aliens in the original video posted to his instagram, Tan doesn’t seem to believe the creature has an extraterrestrial origin. “THE PEOPLE NEED ANSWERS. I’m still guessing it’s a possum — my bet of a chicken parmi for any expert that can prove me wrong still stands,” he wrote after posting the video.
Tan, in a later interview with the social media news outlet Storyful, said that the animal had “humanlike hands, a long lizard tail, nose like a possum, and patches of black fur.”
So far, there has been no consensus as to what the creature might be.
Russell Bicknell, a marine biologist at the University of New England in Australia told Live Science that he thinks it is either a kangaroo or a wallaby. Whatever it is, he said, is “very waterlogged,” likely having been washed out to sea during recent flooding in the area.
“I’d say it’s a Brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, that has lost all its fur,” Sandy Inglesbly, a mammalogy collection manager at the Australian Museum, told Live Science in an email. Inglesbly suggests that the skull “certainly” matches that of a brushtail as well as the proportions of the limbs and tail to the body.
However, this is neither the first, nor the last, time an unidentifiable or bizarre-looking creature will be found washed up onshore. In 2013, a 30-foot-long giant squid washed up on a Spanish beach, while in 2020 an even larger one appeared in South Africa.Marine biologists identified the creatures as Architeuthis dux, the largest marine invertebrate on the planet.
In May 2021, an inky-black fish with gnarly teeth and an appendage protruding from its head appeared on a beach in California; the animal was later identified as a Pacific footballfish.
.And in 2015, a 15-foot-long decomposing “sea monster” washed ashore in Maine that was identified as a basking shark.
In all cases, the unidentified monster is always identified. It remains to be seen what Tan’s discovery is, but all evidence points to “not alien,” despite how bizarre the creature might look.
Originally published on Live Science.
Cameron is a contributing writer covering life sciences for Live Science. He also writes for New Scientist as well as MinuteEarth and Discovery’s Curiosity Daily Podcast. He holds a master’s degree in animal behavior from Western Carolina University and teaches biology at the University of Northern Colorado.