A large fish found dead and rotting on a beach in Spain was probably an oarfish, the animal that gave rise to sea serpent legends, scientists say.
The strange creature, between 12 and 15 feet long, was discovered by swimmers in Villaricos, a village on the Mediterranean in the southern province of Almeria, Euro Weekly News reported Thursday. Police officers cordoned off an area around the fish and called in experts from two environmental agencies.
Francisco Toledano with the Agency for the Protection of Marine Life said the fish was too decomposed for a positive identification. But he said it was most likely to be an oarfish.
Oarfish are found in all the world's oceans but are rarely seen. They are large fish with long thin somewhat snakelike bodies, and the biggest of the four species, the king of herrings, can grow to be more than 50 feet long.
The fish found in Villaricos had body damage that suggested it had been pulled on board a fishing vessel. A similar creature was found on a beach up the coast last weekend, although that one was smaller and in better condition.