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Mysterious dead thing with ‘boney structures’ found on Outer Banks. What is it?

Strange, sometimes unidentifiable objects wash up on NC beaches

Strange things often wash up on NC beaches. Beach goers have found everything from bombs and shipwrecks to animals. But sometimes the objects that wash up cannot be identified.
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Strange things often wash up on NC beaches. Beach goers have found everything from bombs and shipwrecks to animals. But sometimes the objects that wash up cannot be identified.

A “weird” dead thing washed ashore up along North Carolina’s Outer Banks on June 1, stumping the National Park Service.

The spiny object appears worm-like, but with a tight crust of ivory-colored thorns.

It washed up on the Shackleford Banks at Cape Lookout National Seashore and was found by a passerby, the National Park Service said in a Facebook post.

“Weird things are found on the beach,” the park service said. “We need some help identifying this object. ... So far, we’re stumped as to what it might be.”

NOAA released video of a tubeworm growing on a carbonate rock with white chemosynthetic bacterial mat and anemones nearby. Scientists found these tubeworms while exploring methane cold seeps on a research expedition in the Atlantic Ocean.

Park Service staff had a few guesses, including the possibility it was a “plumed worm case.”

However, an update to the post reveals scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have a different answer: It’s the remains of a striped burrfish.

“The bony structures are the fish’s defensive spines. Apparently, these remains can even show up in the fossil record and are known to paleontologists,” said the update. “So no tube worm case decorations this time.”

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported explorers found a type of foot-long marine tube worm living on a part of the seafloor off North Carolina where methane gas seeps from the earth.

Dozens responded to the park service post with guesses, including some who suspected it was the spine of a puffer fish or a burrfish. A few offered stranger ideas — with one person suggesting it was poop of an unidentified animal.

“I’m not saying it’s aliens, but...” posted Jon Dodge on the park’s Facebook page.

“The consensus is: there is no consensus!” wrote Ray Murphey.

“This freaks me out,” posted Robin Hrycko Langley.

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