Origin of mysterious spiky beach that stumped experts revealed: 'Never seen anything like it'

UPDATED: The world's top experts had been baffled about what this strange find was. Now we have the answer

A curled, spiky apendage on a Vancouver Island beach being sniffed by a dog.
Could this strange, spiky appendage be new to science, a hoax, or part of a decayed regular old fish. Source: Facebook

Experts are stumped by a strange discovery on a remote beach. The picture at the centre of the mystery was uploaded to a social media group dedicated to identifying strange marine creatures and shows a dog sniffing a strange, scaly “tentacle” on a beach.

The appendage was described as three feet (91 cm) long and lying on Vancouver Island, Canada, in the Pacific Northwest. Looking closely it appears to have long spikes piercing through its flesh.

Plenty of internet sleuths left guesses as to what it was, with some suggesting it was an iguana tail or part of a shark. “Curious to know what it really is,” one person responded. “Definitely something interesting,” another wrote. “Iguana tail?” another guessed.

Others guessed it could be part of a wolf eel, but fisheries expert Lachlan McKinnon were almost sure that wasn't the case.

A large wolf-eel spotted underwater in waters off British Colombia.
A large wolf-eel spotted off the coast of British Colombia. Source: Getty

"I don't think it's an eel. You can see the rib cage bones and they look quite thick and the vertebrae look quite large, but eel bones are not particularly solid — they're a lot finer," he told Yahoo News.

"It appears that on the tail there's some extra bones or fin-rays or something like that and they don't extend along the spine all the way to the head."

A major museum in Australia shared the photo with its fish, mammals and reptile experts and none could identify the creature. Keepers at the Australian Reptile Park said they didn’t think it was an iguana “based on the structure of the tail” and suggested it could be a fish.

Experts at a local marine conservation group were stumped, telling me it was “impossible to tell” what it is.

Steve Huxter, a former whale trainer who lives on the south coast of British Columbia, guessed it could be a massive eel-fish species called King-of-the-salmon, which has large spines along its tail.

Some thought it might have been the tail from an iguana, but reptile experts dismissed this theory. Source: Getty
Some thought it might have been the tail from an iguana, but reptile experts dismissed this theory. Source: Getty
A black and white photo of Ernie Bent at Race Rocks as he holds up a King-of-the-salmon. Old naturalist sketches of an oarfish (right).
A man holds up a King-of-the-salmon in British Colombia (left). Sketches of an oarfish (right). Source: Gbadgley/Getty

A conservationist with knowledge of Vancouver Island said it looked like an oarfish skeleton. But Tyson R Roberts, the world’s foremost expert in oarfish, dismissed the guess.

He was originally quite struck by the find and told Yahoo he'd “never seen anything like it".

"If this is not a hoax, it is probably the most important zoological discovery this century," he joked.

After further analysing the find after this article was published, Roberts concluded the decomposed flesh likely once belonged to a stingray-like creature. "It evidently is the tail of a skate," he said.

The woman who took the photos did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News. But in her original call for help, she described it as looking like "a tentacle or an eel".

Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.