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Giant sea creature baffles scientists

20:07, Jul 1 2003


SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chilean scientists are baffled by a huge, gelatinous sea creature found washed up on thesouthern Pacific coast and are 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 itsaid the 40-foot-long (12-meter) mass of decomposing lumpy grey 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 itsparts or maybe it's a new species," said Elsa Cabrera, a marine biologist and director of the Centre for CetaceanConservation 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 (3,000 meters) and only rise to the surface when they die. Specimens have beenknown to be as long as 60 feet (18 meters).

There was speculation that the mass might be a whale skin, but Cabrera said it was too big and did not have the righttexture or smell.

Cabrera said she was contacting Chilean and international organisations in the hope that they could help shed some lighton the find.

The Chilean Navy first spotted the mystery specimen along with another large mass, but the other dead animal turned out tobe a dead humpback whale.


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