ALICE SPRINGS, Australia -- The mysterious 3,600-pound sphere found in the desert north of here last month has been positively identified by scientists -- who say it is an enormous hairball!
More astonishing, DNA analysis indicates that whatever coughed up the tightly wound 15- foot-diameter ball of hair and semi-digested matter is not of this Earth!
"The hair fibers are not consistent with any known species," Dr. Ian McCaulway, a leading geneticist, said in a phone interview.
"However, we did find partially digested tissue that originates from ordinary domesticated cattle as well as wild kangaroo, suggesting that whatever it is, it preys on these animals."
That finding could explain recent cattle mutilations reported by ranchers in Australia's Northwest Territory.
The discovery of the mystery object came just days after the sighting of a huge, football- shaped UFO over the Great Sandy Desert, reported by at least 35 witnesses.
Intrepid UFO buff Pat "Patty" Tambrush closed up his roadside tavern and ventured into the desolate area toting a camera, determined to bring back a photo of the supposed spaceship.
After two days roaming in the mercilessly hot desert, Tambrush stumbled onto the towering ball.
"At first, I thought it was the UFO," Tambrush, 56, told a reporter. "But when I got close enough to touch it, I realized it was something else -- I couldn't figure out what."
Excited Tambrush gathered a half dozen of his buddies, and with ropes, chains, a pair of utility vehicles and plenty of ingenuity, they rolled the giant ball back to his business.
News of the amazing find spread like wildfire, drawing first curious tourists and then serious university researchers to the front yard of Tambrush's bar, where the ball was initially displayed.
"At the outset we thought the whole thing was some kind of hoax engineered by Mr. Tambrush himself," Dr. McCaulway said. "But the genetic tests have disproved that."
The creature that coughed up the giant hairball would have to weigh at least 40 tons -- more than five times larger than an African elephant, the researchers estimate. Though hesitant to speculate, the scientists say it's conceivable that the creature was being transported on the UFO and was briefly let off to romp in the desert.
"Human explorers since the days of Christopher Columbus have brought pets such as cats along on their journeys, as mascots, good luck charms and companions," noted Dr. McCaulway.
"It's possible this hairball comes from a domesticated animal of extraterrestrial origin."
The hairball has been shipped to a research center near Sydney for further study.