MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: I found a black sea creature on t;he beach. What is it?

Area: General Biology
Posted By: Karen Culver-Rymsza, Grad student oceanography
Date: Mon Jun 30 09:36:25 1997
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 867620229.Gb


From your description, I would say you have found skate egg cases. Skates are related to sharks (cartilaginous fish of the class Elasmobranchiomorphii), but flattened with wing-like fins. This group includes the Stingray as well as a number of smaller relatives, including the Winter Skate, Clearnose Skate and Barndoor skate..

The egg cases are rectangular, usually black, and leathery or parchment-like with somewhat irregular horny "spines" coming from the the four corners. The "spines" or tendrils help to entangle the pouch in seaweed and seagrass. A single skate develops inside and exits through a slit. The egg cases may wash up on shore, sometimes in large numbers. In folklore, these little pouches are called Mermaid's purses. It is likely, if there was a recent storm, that some of the egg cases washed up were not empty. This would account for the foul odor as the contents died and decayed.

Happy beachcombing!!

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