Rare fish and "true member of the dinosaurs" discovered on East Coast island
Assateague Island, Maryland - When a nature lover went for a stroll along the beach, he surely didn't expect to find a creature that's as close to a dinosaur as it gets!
Naturalist and photographic Allen Sklar discovered the rare and fascinating fish in late January on the beach of Assateague Island, an uninhabited strip of land off the coast of Maryland.
The creature is about 37 inches long, Sklar wrote on his Facebook page along with a photo of the spectacular discovery.
Sklar was also able to identify the dead animal, which was an Atlantic sturgeon.
The fish is a "true member of the dinosaurs," Sklar later wrote on his website.
The Atlantic sturgeon is a living fossil, the researcher emphasizes: "It has no scales only rows of hard plates called scutes." The mouth also has no teeth, but is hard and bony.
While the meat is edible for humans, sturgeon are best known for their eggs, which are used to make caviar.
"The next time you buy a hundred dollar tin of caviar think about the Sturgeon it came from!" the naturalist wrote.
The Atlantic sturgeon is a living fossil
Allen Sklar later shared more background on the dino-fish of Assateague Island with Newsweek.
Sklar said spends a lot of time on the island, whose wildlife is strictly protected. He does research on the history of the island and its animal inhabitants.
"I drive the 12 miles of beach about 100 days a year and so see a lot of stuff others don't," he said.
But the sturgeon was a special find for him: "This was the second sturgeon I have seen [dead] in 27 years of driving on the island."
The animals, once widespread, are now considered very rare, with four groups in the US classified as endangered and the fifth as threatened. They have suffered from overfishing and habitat loss.
The fish can grow to up to 14 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds. Scientists believe they have populated the oceans for more than 120 million years – dating back to the time of the dinosaurs.
Cover photo: Collage: Facebook/Allen Sklar, 123rf/jcamphoto