A Christchurch resident has been left befuddled by a mysterious sea creature washed up on a Canterbury beach.

Her first thought was that it was an alien.

Photos of the bizarre creature show a skeleton with claws on its wings, two long claspers, a long tail, a long head and sharp fangs in its mouth.

Last Saturday, Hanna Mary and her mother were walking along Rakaia Huts collecting rubbish on the beach after a big storm had passed. It was then she came across the bizarre-looking creature.

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The mysterious creature has a long weird looking head. Photo / Hanna Mary
The mysterious creature has a long weird looking head. Photo / Hanna Mary

"First I thought it was a plastic sheeting. I pulled it out from underneath the sticks and it was a bit more than just a piece of plastic."

Her mother, who was further down the beach at the time Mary found the strange creature, came rushing over when she heard her daughter scream.

"She [her mother] found an interesting piece of wood, she picked it up and at the time she yelled out 'omg' and I picked up the critter and I screamed louder than she did.

"She dropped whatever she was holding and came running to me."

"My first thought was that it was something alien, but I was more fascinated than anything."

Initially, they didn't want to touch it in case it was poisonous, but Mary's curiosity gave her enough courage to take it home.

"I took it all the way home and gave it to a taxidermist next door to see if he knew what it was but he wasn't too sure either.

"That why I thought I should reach out and see if anyone else knew what it is."

When the taxidermist had know idea what it was, she turned to her family on Facebook.

"I uploaded the photos on Facebook and we were all taking guesses, most people said skate.

"A few of the guesses were a wee bit absurd because it looks so bizarre."

"Every time we tried to match it with the guesses it just didn't line up."

"My guess it that it's some sort of deep-sea skate, maybe a Bathyraja abyssicola, that might have been picked up by a trawler.

"I'm hoping that I have the winning guess."

Mary explained it was bizarre that it showed up at Rakaia Huts as the beach is very rocky and has quite a big drop off to the shore, making it impossible to swim there.

Dr Malcolm Francis at Niwa has identified the creature as a male Dipturus nasutus, aka a New Zealand rough skate.

"They are called rough skate because they are very prickly ... it's quite common in Canterbury," he said.

"It's like flat shark, it has a skeleton made out of cartilage.

"They spend much of their time on the bottom."

Francis also explained that they are occasionally caught by commercial fisherman, who sell the wings, which can be eaten.

"You might see them in the fish shops in the South Island," he said.

"It might have been one that had been caught by a fisherman, thrown overboard and washed ashore.

He says you can tell it's a male because the things that looks like legs, which are actually claspers, are used for mating with a female.

"They look like a legs, but they're not," he said.

Francis said the claws on the wings are called alar spines, which only male skates have to use for mating.

"They are used to help the male hang onto the female when they are mating," he said.