A nice sand dollar, some shells for the collection, maybe a glimpse of a whale or dolphin in the distance – all things you might like to see on a stroll along the beach. Something you might like to avoid: stepping on the face of a "sea monster".

Stargazer 3 2016 07 13
Oh, hai. Image: Ashley Raper Starr, via East Coast Surfing Championships/Facebook

This rather menacing-looking marine critter was spotted on a local beach by Virginia resident Ashley Raper Starr and her family recently. "We were all curious as to what that could be making bubbles in the sand," she told The Weather Channel. "We were making guesses as we waited for the water to run back over it and reveal the critter's face."

Unsure of what she'd found, Raper Starr took a few snapshots and shared them to the East Coast Surfing Championships Facebook page, who took the opportunity to post a friendly little PSA about the fish.

What you're looking at is Astroscopus guttatus, commonly referred to as the northern stargazer. "They do not pose any real threat to humans, but they sure look menacing," writes the group.

Stargazer 1 2016 07 13
 Image: Ashley Raper Starr, via East Coast Surfing Championships/Facebook
Stargazer 2 2016 07 13
Image: Ashley Raper Starr, via East Coast Surfing Championships/Facebook

Native to the northern East Coast of the United States, the stargazer can be found in temperate waters from North Carolina to New York. The animals spend much of their time buried in the sand – face up – waiting to ambush unsuspecting fish. A pair of upwards-facing eyes adds to their star-gazing appearance, and makes spotting meals from below a piece of cake.

And as if that mean mug wasn't enough, the stargazer also has the ability to give off electric shocks to stun prey and intimidate would-be predators – making stepping on one a potentially jolting experience.  

Encountering the fish in the shorebreak is rare, but it never hurts to keep a cautious eye out while enjoying nature. That next step could be a doozy!

ht: GrindTV


Top header image: Klaus Stiefel, Flickr