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The “Muriwai Monster,” a twitching black mass that washed up on Muriwai Beach, 25 miles northwest of Auckland, New Zealand, has taken the world by storm since its discovery about a week ago. Melissa Doubleday, who stumbled upon it while driving by, initially suspected it to be a whale carcass. However, when she shared images of the mysterious “creature,” which was covered in seaweed and wiggling black tendrils with white shells, on social media people around the world began speculating it was a sea monster, a “beach Christmas tree,” or even an alien time travel capsule.
But it turns out that the “Muriwai Monster” is not some fantastical beast straight out of a Harry Potter book. According to experts at the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society, it is merely a large piece of driftwood overrun by a species of gooseneck barnacles called Lepas anatifera.
While gooseneck barnacles are a type of shellfish, they are the only sessile crustaceans in the world. This means they behave like oysters and produce a cement-like substance that glues them to submerged objects, including ship hulls, piers, and even sea turtles, for their entire life. The crustaceans, considered a delicacy in Spain and Portugal, survive by filtering food particles from the surrounding water through their long, black feeding tentacles. Called peduncles, they can grow as long as 31 inches, which explains the strange, worm-like appearance observed by Doubleday when she first discovered the black mass.
Unfortunately, visitors hoping to witness the twitching beast in real life are out of luck given that the barnacles have now died. All that is left of the “Muriwai Monster” is a putrid smelling “carcass” that will have to be disposed of soon, if locals hope to go anywhere close to the beach.
This is not the first strange thing to wash ashore in New Zealand in recent times. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation this November lifted the seabed by two meters, dramatically altering the landscape and stranding lobsters, abalone, barnacles, seaweed, and other sea life.
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