For 100 years now, people have talked about the existence of a large creature with spots of a leopard and the body of an eel. This creature apparently measures 2 feet long and could be seen lurking in the swamps of Florida and Alabama.

For years, people who saw this beast described it to be as long as a man’s arm, and its skin seemed to glisten even during nightime. Witnesses also said the lurking creature has frills on both sides of its face.

The mystery about the creature was intensified when the book "The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama" was published in 1975. The author, Robert Mount, referred to a mysterious siren.

For a long time, people continued to talk about the creature, but they eventually grew tired of looking for it.

The years of mystery would have continued if not for a paper published by wildlife ecologist David Steen on Dec. 5 in the journal PLOS One.

“It was basically this mythical beast,” Steen said of the creature he discovered.

Steen encountered stories about the large creature in 2007 as a graduate student at Auburn University in Alabama. Hearing about the legend, he and fellow graduate student, Sean Graham, started their quest to prove the existence of the creature with spots of a leopard and the body of an eel.

After two years of quest, Steen had finally held the mythical beast from a minnow trap at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in 2009, the first time that a researcher laid eyes and hands on the elusive giant.

Steen’s study found that the mythical beast is actually a siren, one of the world’s largest salamanders. The species is scientifically known as Siren reticulate and are found to be completely aquatic.

Steen found that the species live in northwest Florida and southern Alabama. Aside from its identifiable leopard spots and eel body, the giant salamander also has two forelegs, no back legs and a set of gills located at the back of its head.

The creature’s actual length is comparable to that of the Hellbender or the Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, the largest salamander in entire North America. Steen’s full story about his quest and pictures of the creature can be found in this link.

Just as the page for the search of the nearly mythical giant salamander closes, Steen said that the species might not actually be alone. While writing for his paper, he and Graham conducted genetic testing for the salamander to prove its authenticity. Their tests suggested that there are other giant siren species still lurking and identified in the Southeast.

“We really need a formal revision of this entire family of salamanders so we can figure out their biology and their conservation status and bring them into the 21st century,” Steen suggested.

A "mythical" salamander with leopard sports and an eel body has been discovered by two scientists. Photo shows two hellbender salamander said to be of the same size with the Siren reticulate. Getty Images/Duane Prokop