They’re called “Devil’s pocketbooks,” “Witch’s purses” and “Mermaid purses,” but these creepy-looking black sacks washing up on Carolina beaches aren’t supernatural.
The black, leathery pouches are actually skate egg sacks.
Skates are stingray-like members of the shark family, according to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which posted a photo of a collection of the egg sacks on Facebook on Monday.
“These are not pieces of plastic; they are skate eggs!” according to the post.
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The pouches “are typically attached to a plant or other stationary object in the water,” according to the post, and most of the time, the “egg sacks wash ashore after the skate has hatched.”
People commented on the seashore’s post thanking it for solving the “mystery” of what the capsules are, or sharing the names they know the egg cases by.
“We called them Devil’s Pocketbooks,” wrote Therese McKinney.
“In Maryland we call them mermaid purses,” Melissa Michel Lyons wrote.
“Those are witch’s purses,” Andrea Light wrote.
The Shark Trust has a guide for identifying egg cases to determine what type of ray, shark or skate it came from.
Each egg case normally contains one shark, skate or ray embryo, though some can contain as many as 6 or 7, according to research from Moss Landing Marine Labs and NOAA.