Disgusting New Jersey River Sea Monster Photos: Is It a Sea Lamprey? [VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on February 26, 2013 10:26 PM EST

Sea Monster
This disgusting image of a monstrous sea creature went viral on Reddit this week. (Photo: Reddit)
Lamprey
The beast's seven gills, visible in this picture, suggest that it is a sea lamprey. (Photo: Reddit)

A disgusting "sea monster" was fished out of the Raritan River in northern New Jersey by fishing hobbyist Doug Cutler.

Cutler's friend, Reddit user jlitch, posted pictures of the sea monster to Reddit last week with the unassuming title "Friend also caught this fishing in NJ." The first uploaded image of the horrifying creature was so shocking that it gained over 1 million views in only one week.

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The Daily News reported that Cutler was hunting on a boat with a bow and arrow, which he used to spear the river monster through its middle.

The disgusting river monster was caught in the summer of 2011, and images were uploaded to Cutler's Facebook page before they went viral.

The images show a long, thick slug-like sea animal covered in blood from the arrow used to spear it, with thick lips at its mouth opening in front of jagged teeth.

Scientists at Outdoor magazine believe that the monster river creature is most likely a very large sea lamprey, a type of parasitic fish that lives in the northern Atlantic Ocean and have moved into the Great Lakes region, where they are an invasive species.

Lampreys use their rows of jagged teeth to latch onto prey and suck their blood, injecting hosts with digestive fluids that gradually dissolve and kill over time.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission states that a sea lamprey can kill over 40 pounds of fish throughout its life, and that some species of host fish survive as little as 15 percent of the time after being attacked by a lamprey.

Luckily, lampreys have no interest in preying on humans, though humans in many cultures prey on lampreys. Lampreys were historically eaten as a delicacy in ancient Rome and by upper class Europeans in the Middle Ages, and still are throughout Europe.

Queen Elizabeth II of England even had lamprey pie prepared from the Great Lakes Fishery's supply for her Diamond Jubilee last summer, though it's safe to assume it looked much more appetizing than the photos of this river monster.

According to the Daily News, sea lampreys have recently started to show up more frequently in New Jersey rivers, as aging dams that used to keep them out have been removed for safety reasons.

Despite the evidence, others are not quite sure what the river monster actually is.

"The photo doesn't allow counting of gill openings (seven per side for sea lampreys), but based on size alone, this does appear to be a sea lamprey," a New York Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman told Outdoor after seeing only the first image.

The second image, however, confirms that the sea monster does have seven gill openings, which suggests that the beast is, in fact, a sea lamprey.

Sea lampreys are usually not larger than 3 feet, so the sea monster in the photos is either a very large lamprey or a totally different river creature.

Gawker writer Taylor Berman doesn't care what it is:

"Regardless of what it is, this is just another reason why you should never swim or wade in murky water, even/especially in New Jersey."

Watch these videos of sea lampreys in action and judge for yourself:

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