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Thousands Of 'Penis Fish' Wash Up On A Beach In California

Tom Wood

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Thousands Of 'Penis Fish' Wash Up On A Beach In California

In an unusual and slightly unnerving turn of events, thousands of bizarre little creatures called 'penis fish' have washed ashore at Drakes Beach, California.

If you're wondering why these critters are known as penis fish - well - just have a look at them and decide for yourself whether it's an apt title.

Also known as the fat innkeeper worm, which again feels like a decent enough name for them, it is thought that the strange marine animals washed ashore on the Pacific US coast after they were dragged from the depths by a recent storm.

Seriously, there's load of them.

Really, that's disgusting. Credit: David Ford
Really, that's disgusting. Credit: David Ford

Basically, the reason it's called an innkeeper worm is that they live in small underground burrows that are u-shaped, and become homes for other creatures once the worm leaves.

They're about 10 inches long, and - as you can see - they're f***ing gross.

Particularly if they're washed up by the thousands on a beach to be picked over by seagulls.

Honestly, it's a good thing the birds are there. Imagine the smell after a couple of days.

Biologist Ivan Parr discovered the 'penis fish' washed up on the beach on December 6, a few days after a particularly violent storm.

In Bay Nature, Parr wrote: "The same phenomenon has been reported over the years at Pajaro Dunes, Moss Landing, Bodega Bay, and Princeton Harbor,

"I've heard my share of imaginative theories from beachcombers, such as flotsam of a wrecked bratwurst freighter.

"In truth, these are living denizens of our beaches rudely, yet also mercifully, mostly called 'fat innkeeper worms."

So, would you like to know a bit more about the fat innkeeper worm? Of course you would.

Mmm...they look delicious, don't they? Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Mmm...they look delicious, don't they? Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It's a type of spoon worm, which swims along using the single limb it's got that is shaped a bit like a spatula.

As mentioned before, it lives in the mud and sand on the sea floor in a hole that it digs, then very kindly leaves for other sea-dwelling critters.

In order to catch the miniscule plankton and bacteria that makes up the bulk of its diet, the worm casts what is known as a 'slime net' that it then devours afterwards.

Yum.

Fancy one of these for tea? Credit: iNaturalist Creative Commons
Fancy one of these for tea? Credit: iNaturalist Creative Commons

Oh, and they can live for around 25 years, in some cases.

You've got to admire the variety of nature, eh?

Of course, in some cultures they're considered a delicacy. In Korea and China people eat them with sesame oil and gochujang.

Well, it takes all sorts, I guess.

Featured Image Credit: David Ford

Topics: Interesting, Weird, Animals

Tom Wood
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