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The Zuiyo-maru carcass was the decomposed remains of a sea creature caught by the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyō Maru off the east coast of New Zealand in 1977. Its strange appearance led many to believe it was the remains of a plesiosaur, which is a aquatic prehistoric reptile that some believe could be Nessie, but later testing of tissue remains showed that it was most likely a decomposed basking shark or perhaps an undiscovered animal.
On April 25, 1977, the Japanese trawler Zuiyō Maru, sailing 30 miles east of Christchurch, New Zealand, caught an enormous strange, rotting carcass in the trawl. The crew were convinced it was an unidentified animal, but despite the potential biological significance of the curious discovery, the captain, Akira Tanaka, decided to dump the carcass into the ocean again so not to risk spoiling the caught fish. However, before that, some photos and sketches were taken of the creature, nicknamed "Nessie" by the crew, measurements were taken and some samples of skeleton, skin and fins were collected for further analysis by experts in Japan. The discovery resulted in immense commotion and a "plesiosaur craze" in Japan, and the shipping company ordered all its boats to try to relocate the dumped corpse again, but with no apparent success.
Description and Explanations
Although some insisted it was "not a fish, whale, or any other mammal", analysis later indicated it was almost certainly the carcass of a basking shark by comparing the number of sets of amino acids in the muscle tissue. Decomposing basking shark carcasses lose most of the lower head area and the dorsal and caudal fins first, making them resemble a plesiosaur. The reportedly foul-smelling, decomposing corpse reportedly weighed 1,800 kg and was about 13 m long. According to the crew, the creature had a one and a half meter long neck, four large, reddish fins and a tail about two meters long. No internal organs remained, but flesh and fat was somewhat intact.