A rocky beach in California looked like the world’s biggest sausage party in early December after a mass stranding left thousands of so-called “penis fish” flopping around on the shore.
Photos captured by Bay Nature Magazine show the shore of Drake’s Beach was nearly covered in the phallic-shaped creatures, which are actually a type of marine worm.
Their scientific name is Urechis caupo, but they’re commonly known as fat innkeeper worms or penis fish — for obvious reasons. Each one is a 10-inch tube of pink flesh with a bulge and a narrow opening at one end.
“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 magazine wrote in a post on Instagram.
A fierce storm and heavy waves likely washed away several feet of sand to expose the worms, biologist Ivan Parr wrote in a blog post for the magazine.
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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)
Hundreds of seagulls descended on the beach for an all-you-can-eat water-wiener buffet, the photos show.
Although North Americans aren’t used to dining out on penis fish, they’re a popular treat in South Korea, where they’re known as gaebul. Urechis caupo is only native to North America, but three other species of penis fish are known to live under the sandy beaches of several Asian countries on the Pacific Ocean.
The penis fish photos triggered an explosion of jokes on Instagram.
“They sure come in different sizes!” wrote one user.
Another user described the scene as a total “sausage fest.”
It’s unclear whether the penis fish survived their moment of exposure — or if all that sea junk is still flopping around on the beach.
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