Forget all this chatter about exploding meteors and some asteroid making a dauntingly close pass to earth: There are aliens among us! Or so some might think after inspecting the image of a bizarre-looking denizen pulled from the waters of New Jersey.
The photo, containing no information other than the New Jersey reference, has gone viral on Reddit, garnering nearly 400,000 views in the first six hours after being posted on Friday.
Apparently, the creature, whose days of terrorizing other creatures are over thanks to the sharp point of a spear, is a very large sea lamprey.
Sea lampreys only measure to about three feet, so the specimen in this image must appear gigantic because of the camera angle. It also could be seriously photoshopped.
A spokeswoman for New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, when asked for a positive ID, stated via email: "The photo doesn't allow counting of gill openings (seven per side for sea lamprey), but based on size alone, this does appear to be a sea lamprey."
"It sucks the life out of fish," reads one of hundreds of comments.
According to the DEC, sea lampreys are eel-like jaw-less and boneless parasites, boasting mouths full of rasping teeth and a file-like tongue.
Juveniles latch onto other fish and drain them of bodily fluids.
Most often, the prey, or host fish, dies as a result of either blood loss or infection.
Sea lampreys spend their egg and larval stages in fresh water. Once their bodies form and they become parasitic, they move out to sea to live off of a host fish.
In the Northeast, lampreys prey on other species of fish, including game fish, and in some areas are considered a nuisance species.
Therefore, in this instance, perhaps it's good that the fisherman did not choose to practice catch-and-release.
"Because of the economic importance and profound effects of the sea lamprey on fish communities, its life history has been studied intensely," states a U.S. Fish and Wildlife document on sea lampreys. "In the Bight, sea lampreys ascend to coastal streams in Long Island, New York, the New Jersey shore, and the Hudson River."
Thankfully, if this image is an indication, there seems to be one less parasitic monster in our midst.
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