A number of North Carolina residents have reported seeing what appear to be tiny plastic pouches washing up on the state’s numerous beaches.
However, these bizarre looking objects, also known as “mermaid’s purses” or “devil’s pocketbooks,” aren’t manmade at all.
“No these are not pieces of plastic; they are skate eggs!” Cape Hatteras National Seashore explained on Facebook earlier this week, officially dispelling rumors that they’re due to pollution.
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Unlike their cousin the stingray, which have live births, skates lay eggs. When the collagen casings that protect them has served its purpose, they often end up on the beach.
“The Skates are in the shark family but share a flat-like appearance similar to stingrays,” the post continues. “These leathery pouches serve as an egg sack and are typically attached to a plant or other stationary object in the water. Most often, these egg sacks wash ashore after the skate has hatched.”
According to ScienceAlert, there are several species of skate that occupy the waters off the coast of North Carolina. These include winter skates, barndoor skates, thorny skates, clearnose skates and little skates.
If you do come across empty egg casings washed up on the beach, consider participating in The Shark Trust's Great Eggcase Hunt, and help identify and count shark and ray species around the world.