POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE – Thousands of long, brown cylindrical shaped creatures washed up in a beach in California.
This may just be the weirdest thing you've seen today!— Bay Nature magazine (@BayNature) December 11, 2019
Thousands of these marine worms, called fat innkeeper worms—or "penis fish"—washed up on Drake's Beach after a recent storm. 🌊 But why? https://t.co/MwY6xkN3kb pic.twitter.com/vGMpSvGoAT
The mysterious sighting of ‘penis fish’ or fat innkeeper worms were discovered after a recent storm on Drakes Beach on Dec. 6, according to Bay Nature. The same phenomenon has been reported elsewhere.
What is a ‘penis fish’?
The fat innkeeper worm, or Urechis caupo, is a type of spoon worm, identified by its spatula-shaped proboscis for feeding, grasping or swimming.
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SHOOK 😳 Thousands of these marine worms—called fat innkeeper worms, or “penis fish”—were found on Drake’s Beach last week! These phallic organisms are quite common along the West coast of North America, but they spend their whole lives in U-shaped burrows under the sand, so few beachgoers are aware of their existence. ⛈🌊 A recent storm in Northern California brought strong waves that washed away several feet of sand from the intertidal zone, leaving all these fat innkeeper worms exposed on the surface. 🏖 Next time you go to the beach, just think about the hundreds of 10-inch, pink sausages wiggling around just a few feet under the sand. 🙃 . . Get the full story in our new #AsktheNaturalist with @california_natural_history via link in bio! (📸: Beach photo courtesy David Ford; Worm photo by Kate Montana via iNaturalist)
Where can you find fat innkeeper worms?
U. caupo, the scientific name of the fat innkeeper worm, is only found in North America from Southern Oregon to Baja. However, these worms are almost uniquely a California experience, biologist Ivan Parr wrote.
What is life like for fat innkeeper worms?
It is mostly dark and underground. Located a beach or mudflat, the worm digs a “U-shaped burrow extending a few feet in length but no wider than the worm itself,” Parr wrote. Fossil evidence suggest the existence of these creatures dating back 300 million years and some can live up to 25 years.
How did thousands of ‘penis fish’ end up on Drakes Beach?
Since these worms live right beneath the earth, strong storms are capable of destroying the intertidal zone, breaking apart the sediments and leaving the contents stranded on shore, Parr wrote.
Do people eat fat innkeeper worms?
In South Korea, fat innkeeper worms are known as “gaebul” or “dog genitals” and is considered a delicious treat, according to Heavy. The fish are described as chewy and sweet from marinating in salt water. Peak season for the fish is December to March.