Here is a list of search terms that have led people to my blog since yesterday afternoon:
"turtles without their shells"
"turtles without shells"
"how to take the shells off turtles"
"Photos of Turtles without their shells"
I'm happy to be serving an educational function. Meanwhile, the real puzzle is still not solved. I agree with yesterday's commenter that the second set of photos (the ones from Newsday) look like a dog; however, I'm not sure that creature is the original one. It could be the same thing, flipped over to its not-so-sunburned side. And I am hoping it is the same thing, because what's worse than one mysterious ocean demon? TWO mysterious ocean demons! But I'm not sure "dog" accounts for the weird fingerlike phalanges I think I can see in the original picture. So... Maybe raccoon? Otter? Nutria/coypu?
Still don't know what I'm talking about? Still think you want to know? Okay, FINE. The Gawker item that started it all is here, and Newsday has another set of pictures here (although their lousy web layout makes them hard to find). But I must warn you again that YOU WILL BE SORRY. Instead, why not spend your afternoon admiring this awesome photo of a creature that most definitely is a turtle. A box turtle, in fact. (Though it looks to me like it might be female.)
UPDATE: mystery solved.