A walk along Texas City beach took an unexpected turn for Preeti Desai when she stumbled over a creature that normally swims well below the surface washed ashore during Hurricane Harvey.
Desai posted a picture of the fanged sea creature on Twitter in the hope that someone could identify it: “Okay, biology twitter, what the heck is this?? Found on a beach in Texas City, TX,” she wrote on September 6.
One respondent, Adam Summers, a professor at the University of Washington and the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, said that the creature was identifiable due to the “remnant of skin coloration, the body and head shape, the teeth and the shape of the jaw they are in.”
While the creature at first sight appeared to have no eyes, Summers pointed out that they had actually just decayed.
Summers credited Ben Frable, at U.C. San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with identifying the fish as a fangtooth snake-eel. Fable wasn’t sure whether Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas on August 25, was to blame for bringing the creature to the beach. “They live in shallow water sometimes. And wash up on beaches even without storms,” Fable wrote.
According to biologist and eel specialist Dr Kenneth Tighe, there’s a high probability the animal is a fangtooth snake-eel, but it could also be a garden or conger eel. "All three of these species occur off Texas and have large fang-like teeth," he told the BBC.
The fangtooth snake-eel, also known as aplatophis chauliodusor "tusky" eel, is usually found in waters between 30 and 90 metres deep in the western Atlantic ocean. It feeds itself on small fish and crustaceans and can reach 33 inches in length.
Other Twitter users agreed that, whatever the name of the animal, it is the stuff of nightmares.
Creatures of all kinds were affected by the strong hurricanes that battered the southern U.S. in recent weeks.
Numerous animals were stranded when Hurricane Irma lashed Florida last week, including two manatees marooned in Florida’s Sarasota Bay and later rescued by a group of people.
Florida residents were at least spared any encounters with alligators, who were confined to Gatorland in Orlando to avoid posing any risk to humans.
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