Thousands of fish have mysteriously washed up on a California shoreline following a series of winter storms. In a jarring photo on Instagram, thousands of the pink 10-inch fish are seen covering the shore of Drakes Beach in northern California. What's even more surprising about the fish is their shape -- they resemble a human penis.
The underwater creatures do not, however, belong to the fish category. They are fat innkeeper worms, or Urechis caupo -- neither penises nor fish -- and are widely referred to as a “penis fish.”
The photo was taken by David Ford, who shared the photo with Bay Nature Magazine on December 6.
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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)
“I had no idea what they might be – it went on for two miles. I walked for another half hour and they were scattered everywhere. There were seagulls lined up the beach the whole way having eaten so much they could barely stand,” Ford said in an interview with VICE News.
He said the worm typically lives up to 25 years and there is fossil evidence that dates the species back 300 million years to a pre-historic era.
The worm is considered a delicacy in some East Asian countries.