See the ‘strange’ creature from the deep with sharp teeth spotted by family on Whitburn beach - but what was it?

A professor from Durham University has solved the mystery of an alien-like creature from the deep which was washed up on Whitburn beach.

James Scott was walking along the beach with wife Joanne, 42, and son Hayden, 11, when a “strange looking creature” caught his eye.

James, 42, from Houghton, said: “I was enjoying a walk with my family when I saw what looked like a very strange creature close to the rocks on Whitburn beach. It looked like a dead fish, but not one I’ve seen before. It had a strange looking body and rows of really sharp teeth. It was about a foot long, four inches wide and certainly didn’t look like a type of fish I’d seen before, such as a cod.

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"There was lots of seaweed and driftwood washed up on the beach from stormy conditions, but I’ve certainly never seen anything like this. With all those teeth, I really wouldn’t want to put my fingers near its mouth.”

The strange looking creature found on Whitburn beach.

After taking photographs of the creature, they “returned it to the ocean to let it rest in peace back out at sea”.

James was keen to get the bottom of what the creature could be, and after doing some research he contacted the Echo and we forwarded the photographs to universities to get an expert opinion. Professor Martyn Lucas, Aquatic Animal Ecology Research Group Leader at the Department of Biosciences at Durham University, believes the creature is a European anglerfish.

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He said: “It's Lophius piscatorius, also known as the European anglerfish. It was given this name because it has a 'lure' that it waves in front of its mouth to attract small fish and prawns which it then gobbles up. It’s also known as common monkfish and is quite often sold as monkfish at fishmongers in Britain.

“The fish is common in Atlantic waters, including around Britain, usually in water of depths of 40 metres to several hundred metres. It lives on the bottom. It is a pretty common fish, but it is not that common for one to be washed up ashore due to its deeper water bottom-dwelling habits.”

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A professor from Durham University has identified the creature as the European anglerfish.

According to the National Geographic, there are 200 different species of anglerfish, all of which live in the sunlight starved depths of the ocean. The illuminated lure, which is used to attract prey, is only present on females. Some anglerfish can grow to over three feet in length.

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A side profile of the fish which is around a foot long.
James Scott with wife Joanne and son Hayden. The family discovered the creature while out for a walk.