Thousands of 10-inch “penis fish” have mysteriously washed up on a beach in California following winter storms.
The wriggling animals are a species of marine spoon worm commonly known as the “fat innkeeper worm” or sometimes the “penis fish”.
The critters were spotted flopped across the sands of Drakes Beach in California, about 50km (31m) north from San Francisco.
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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)
A post shared by Bay Nature Magazine (@baynaturemagazine) on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:58am PST
The nightmarish scene was first reported by Bay Nature, which wrote that the creatures are quite common along the west coast in North America.
However because the animals normally live in U-shaped burrows under the sand, people visiting the beach are rarely aware of their existence.
Winter storms which battered northern California recently exposed a number of these worms after the powerful waves washed away several feet of sand.
Officially known as Urechis caupo, the animals are “perfectly shaped” for their lives underground according to biologist Ivan Parr, even if they appear hideous to us.
They can live for up to 25 years and are even eaten as food in countries such as Korea and China.