Thousands of ‘throbbing penis fish’ wash up on California coast

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Somehow, an invasion of phallic-looking worms is altogether fitting for the left coast of California.

Wildlife enthusiast David Ford shared a surreal scene of large, fat 10-inch worms all across the Drakes Beach shoreline, which is just north of San Francisco — the strange creatures are known as “penis fish” because of their appearance.

“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.” the caption read.

 

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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)

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Ford was walking on Drake’s Beach on Dec. 6 when a massive flock of seagulls caught his attention — turns out, the seagulls were engaged in a feeding frenzy and innkeeper worms were the only item on the menu.

The innkeeper name derives from the worms housing smaller creatures like pea crabs and tiny arrow goby fish, in their burrows, according to CNN. These creatures eat food discarded by their hosts.

“All the seagulls had been eating them until they just couldn’t stand it anymore,” Ford said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I walked for 40 minutes, and I didn’t get to the end of them.”

A 2016 YouTube video captures a seeming pulsating, or “throbbing” innkeeper worm.

Biologist Ivan Parr wrote in Bay Nature that innkeeper worms date 300 million years.

“They are quite long-lived, recorded up to 25 years old,” he explained. “That said, the fat innkeeper has many threats. They are preyed on by otters, flounders, sharks, rays, gulls, and humans.”

“We’re seeing the risk of building your home out of sand,” Parr wrote. “Strong storms — especially during El Niño years — are perfectly capable of laying siege to the intertidal zone, breaking apart the sediment, and leaving their contents stranded on the shore.”

All of which means liberals may blame climate change for the emergence of a horde of penis-shaped worms.

Powerful storms around Thanksgiving dumped an inch of rain and wind gusts of 45 miles an hour on the area, CNN reported, with the network citing Parr saying this is a likely driver of the worms’ surfacing.

The network noted that mass strandings in 2010 and 2016 hit during El Niño weather events, when warmer-than-average waters bring more rain to California.

The incident prompted some good-natured humor:

Tom Tillison

Senior Staff Writer
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The longest-tenured writer at BizPac Review, Tom grew up in Maryland before moving to Central Florida as a young teen. It is in the Sunshine State that he honed both his passion for politics and his writing skills.
Tom Tillison

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