This photo of a creepy-looking "alien-like" creature found in New Jersey has gone viral on Reddit, registering more than 400,000 views in just six hours after being posted Friday. And before you write the photo off as a fake, keep reading to hear the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirm the creature in the photo appears to be real.
According to the New York DEC, the creature, which unfortunately met its end after a sharp spear pierced its body, appears to be a very large sea lamprey.
"The photo doesn't allow counting of gill openings (seven per side for sea lamprey), but based on size alone, this does appear to be a sea lamprey," a spokeswoman for the agency told GrindTV.com.
However, it should still be noted that there is always the possibility the picture has been photoshopped to make the sea lamprey look larger, or it could just be the camera angle.
Sea lampreys are eel-like, jawless, boneless parasites equipped with mouths full of sharp teeth and a file-like tongue, according to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. As if they weren't creepy enough, juvenile lampreys apparently latch onto other fish and drain them of bodily fluids. "Most often, the prey, or host fish, dies as a result of either blood loss or infection," GrindTV.com notes, which accurately labeled the creature "alien-like."
"It sucks the life out of fish," one Redditor commented.
Before moving out to sea to live off a host fish, sea lampreys spend their "egg and larval stages" in fresh water. They become parasitic once their bodies form and they are ready to go out to sea.