Posted by . on July 01, 2003 at 12:32:11:
SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chilean scientists were baffled on Tuesday by a huge, gelatinous sea creature found washed up on the southern Pacific coast and were seeking international help identifying the mystery specimen.
The dead creature was mistaken for a beached whale when first reported about a week ago, but experts who went to see it said the 40-foot-long mass of decomposing lumpy gray flesh apparently was an invertebrate.
"We'd never before seen such a strange specimen, We don't know if it might be a giant squid that is missing some of its parts or maybe it's a new species," said Elsa Cabrera, a marine biologist and director of the Center for Cetacean Conservation in Santiago.
Photographs showed a round leathery substance like a mammoth jelly fish, about as long as a school bus.
Giant squid live at a depth of 9,500 feet and only rise to the surface when they die. Specimens have been known to be as long as 60 feet.
There was speculation that the mass might be a whale skin, but Cabrera said it was too big and did not have the right texture or smell.
Cabrera said she was contacting Chilean and international organizations in the hope that they could help shed some light on the find.
The Chilean Navy first spotted the mystery specimen along with another large mass, but the other dead animal turned out to be a dead humpback whale.
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