When veterinarian Maria Lombard took a walk on Waitarere Beach north of Wellington, New Zealand, several months ago she hardly expected to make news. Then she noticed something strange that had been washed up on the beach. It was a skeleton made of cartilage with a rather alarming appearance -- it looked for all the world like she had discovered the skeleton of a dragon.
Being a woman educated about animals, she knew that this six and a half foot skeleton could not have come from a mythical dragon, but she was baffled by what it actually could be. So she used her cell phone to snap several pictures of the odd remains and sent them off to Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum of New Zealand,to see if they could identify it. She also posted the photos on Facebook.
In the meantime she thought that it might be some kind of an eel. It was obviously a sea creature of some sort since there was no evidence of a rib cage or lungs. She anxiously awaited a reply to satisfy her curiosity.
It turned out that Lombard had found the skeleton of a fish called a smooth skate. While smooth skates are often found in the waters around New Zealand, they are most common along the east coast of the South Island. That is about 200 miles away from where Lombard discovered the remains of the creature. While skates are not common to us in the U.S., their muscular "wings" are apparently edible.
Smooth skates can grow to be up to 7.9 feet long and live up to 24 years. Females don't mature until they are 13 years old. Check out the video below to see what a live smooth skate looks like:
Photos by Maria Lombard, Images via Facebook