I am in a remote village and a young boy (second pic holding tail) says this thing is his friend. This creature is safe, we held it for pictures and released it after. None of us know what this is and we do not know who to contact. The young boy plays with it every day so it is safe but it still is strange.

These are salt water shores, not fresh water.

Someone mentioned a dugong but it is far too skinny I think. I didn't get pictures of the head as we didn't know if it had sharp teeth. Image is taken in a remote village in Kavieng, Papua New Guinea.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

The creature's head looked like this.

Link: polartrec.com/files/members/cara-pekarcik/images/dsc_0160.jp‌​g

I'm no expert, but I don't believe seals are in Papua New Guinea, it's almost a hybrid of few things.

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    $\begingroup$ The vertebral column is so pronounced! Doesn't appear like a dorsal fin. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Jun 20 '17 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ Hi sorry it's 1am so my replies are slack, but yes you're looking at the dorsal side, and it did not have a blow hole. If I were to describe the head it looked awfully similar to a leopard seal but that's just a comparison. There weren't any other fins visible either. Such a strange thing we saw! Funnily enough, mermaids are huge in this culture and it was suggested by locals haha $\endgroup$ – Jude Jun 20 '17 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ What on earth is happening here??? This animal isn't any kind of seal (because of the dorsal fins) and it isn't any kind of dolphin because it doesn't have blow-hole and a find on his spine.... I strongly recommend that it is a sirenid... like sea-cows, but it is small. Because as you mentioned it plays with kids it maybe be a juvenile sea-cow... that's my opinion and I am not 100% sure :). Very interesting case by the way. $\endgroup$ – The_Mad_Fish Jun 20 '17 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ This is off topic, but could you contact the Wildlife authorities and bring this creature to their notice. I think this is the best thing to do when one finds an unidentified animal and there's risk of death. @Jude $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Jun 21 '17 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ The animal should get proper protection $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Jun 21 '17 at 14:19

It's probably a dugong, based on the location, lack of a dorsal fin, split tail, lack of a blowhole, and narrowing of the snout.

The prominent vertebral column looks unusual, but that might come from the strange posture it is being held in or from malnutrition.

This publication from the Australian government shows necropsy of several dugongs (note, this PDF contains graphic necropsy photographs), including one that was malnourished (see page 53). This individual shows some of the characteristics of the OP, including pronounced vertebral column and a clearly visible neck. The text notes the presence of these features as well.

Adult dugongs showing signs of malnutrition: a) with neck becoming visible and prominent backbone

Sadly, the other dugong pictures I found that look most like this specimen are also ones from news sources that are often dead or injured or needing some other human assistance. Some other examples:

Some pictures do show a prominent vertebral column near the tail in animals that seem otherwise healthy, but those images don't show the rest of the animal well (thanks to @theforestecologist):

http://www.oceanwideimages.com/images/11147/large/dugong-58M1444-20D.jpg http://www.oceanwideimages.com/images/11144/large/dugong-58M1444-17D.jpg

As an extra piece of trivia, dugongs and their manatee cousins have been closely associated with mermaid legends.

Of course, a better picture of the animal's head, especially in profile, would make identification much more clear.

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    $\begingroup$ Most pictures I can find from dugongs have more moon like shaped tails whereas the OP's picture clearly shows a strong split. Based on which pictures did you think that these tails were similair? $\endgroup$ – KingBoomie Jun 21 '17 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ I agree about the tail, but perhaps this is really just an illusion from the way the animal is being held in the OP's pictures? I did find two pictures (here and here) that show a strongly pronounced spinal ridge leading from dugong taild like in the OP's photos. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Jun 21 '17 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist Thanks for the extra pictures, I'll add them, and some as well as some more argument. I may wait a bit, though, for OP to post some more pictures, I think they will be quite helpful and the only way to make this definitive. Partly this is just a matter of process of elimination. There is no way this thing can be a seal, there is no seal with a tail like that (and no seals that live where OP is, though that's less convincing). There is no way it can be a dolphin/porpoise/etc because there is no blowhole. Etc.. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jun 21 '17 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @RickBeeloo In the linked Wikipedia article and many other (somewhat more reputable sources), one of the best differentiating features of dugongs versus manatees is the shape of their tail; dugongs have a fluked tail, manatees do not. I think the "fluke" is exaggerated in the pictures because of how the tail is held, like theforestecologist mentions. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jun 21 '17 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ After looking over the links you included, I'm certain your answer is the right one. The prominent spinal ridge on this specimen seems to indicate starvation. $\endgroup$ – Jude Jun 24 '17 at 12:06

I know you said there was no blowhole on this animal but is it possible that the blowhole was closed and just a slit so not noticed?

The tail looks very much like a dolphin species but the low crest along the spine and no dorsal fin in sight is very puzzling. Your description of the head and your region of the world made me think of the Australian snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) that's a recent discovered dolphin species near Papua New Guinea.

From New Guinea's Newly Discovered Species (from 2011)

In the waters south of New Guinea, an unexpected discovery was made in 2005. The snub-fin dolphin, Orcaella heinsohni, was once thought to be a member of the Irrawaddy species of dolphin. However, researchers found that snub-fins have different coloration, skull, fin and flipper measurements. That makes them the first new dolphin species recorded for at least 30 years. A skull of the new dolphin species was collected from Daru, Papua New Guinea. Scientists believe these dolphins occur mainly in protected, shallow, coastal waters, specially adjacent to river and creek mouths. The expected range of O. heinsohni is the coastal zones of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Here's an image of the head shape. enter image description here Courtesy Daniele Cagnazzi

(from Support Our Snubfin Dolphin)


Could it possibly be a steller's sea cow Well by the looks of it

  • spinal cord
  • the mouth
  • the fork tail
  • grass which it feeds on if u see the water in the photos Well i could just be wrong but who knows

I think is blackchin guitarfish. Like that. But this picture not enought.

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    $\begingroup$ I completely disagree. It isn't a Blackchin guitarfish. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Jun 21 '17 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ Please add support/citations for your answer. As of now, this appears to be an unsupported guess and will likely be downvoted. Please improve/expand upon your answer . Thanks. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Jun 21 '17 at 18:15

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