Mystery Creature

By Michelle Kerr

We receive some interesting calls and messages in the FWRI Communications Office. Sometimes inquiries require multiple experts’ input from a variety of agencies across the state. FWRI is the go-to for identifying unknown species, alive or dead, and on March 19 we received a photo from a news station in Jacksonville that stumped marine biologists and avid fishermen alike.

This ‘creature’ was sighted on the shore of Wolf Island, GA by a man and his son while out boating. Its long neck, small mouth, and distinct tail shape had experts stumped. The fresh-looking pink guts eluded to its authenticity. Biologists speculated it was a frilled shark, but it looked more like a dinosaur. Was this a well-done photoshop prank, or perhaps a movie prop?

Some said it looked identical to an Elasmosaurus – a genus of plesiosaur that lived in North America during the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous period (only about 80.5 million years ago). Layers of the story unfolded as others did more research. Someone stumbled on the Altamaha-ha: a legendary, mythical sea monster thought to inhabit the Altamaha River in Georgia. No one found physical evidence of the carcass, and the story was dismissed as a hoax.