A mystery creature reportedly beaten to death by a group of teenagers in Panama is the subject of much speculation on the web.

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© Telemetro
The critter's hooked claw may indicate that it was a sloth. But then what happened it's hair suit?
The beast's hairless, rubbery body and revolting features have drawn comparisons with the Montauk Monster, the still-unidentified animal photographed on a New York beach last year.

According to reports in Panama, the teenagers spotted the creature crawling out of a cave while playing in the town of Cerro Azul north of Panama City.

Fearing for the safety as it moved towards them, the youths claim they attacked the beast with sticks before throwing its lifeless body into a pool of water.

They returned later to take pictures of the corpse which were then posted on the website of the Central American country's Telemetro television station.

The images have since bounced around various cryptozoology blogs, with several explanations suggested for what it might have been.

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© Telemetro
Panama 'monster'?
A hooked claw visible in one of the photos has been cited as evidence for the popular theory that the creature was a sloth that somehow lost its hair.

The so-called Montauk Monster provoked intense speculation when photos allegedly taken at the Long Island resort where it was washed up were posted on Gawker, the US gossip website.

It was variously identified as a dead dog, a disused film prop and a marketing stunt, but its remains have never been found.