Thousands of peculiar-looking fish washed up California shores recently and it has left people online laughing out loud. Reason? Well, it looks like men genitalia. These marine worms are called Urechis caupo and popularly known as ‘penis-fish’ for their uncanny similarities.
A recent storm in Drakes Beach, north of San Francisco, uncovered a huge mass of the bizarre-looking worms from their burrows deep under the sand and now images of it have taken social media by storm. Bay Nature magazine noticed the non-segmented marine worms and shared the photos on Twitter and Instagram and quickly garnered a lot of attention online and went viral.
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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)
According to the Bay Nature report, “thousands” of pink, throbbing, phallic creatures wound up along a beach about 50 miles north of San Francisco and intrigued onlookers and netizens alike.
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The Korean name for this curious creature is gaebul, which translates as “dog dick.” Here in the States, it’s known as the fat innkeeper worm or the penis fish. Its scientific binomial is Urechis caupo, or “viper tail tradesman.” Whatever you call the animal, you can find them in abundance at Bodega Bay, where they build burrows in the tidal mud flats. On Saturday afternoon, our small, but enthusiastic clamming/crabbing crew thrust shovels and shoulder-deep arms into that mud in pursuit of Pacific gaper clams (Tresus nuttallii), but we also pulled up at least twenty of these red rockets. We returned them to their subterranean homes – excepting those that were snatched by eager herring gulls. I learned later that the gulls were the smarter hunters; fat innkeepers are edible, and are even considered a delicacy in Korea. Still, even though we missed out on a prime opportunity to dine on dog dick, we had a successful, fun outing, encountering a number of curious species, some of which now reside my belly. ⊙ What you’re looking at here: • Fat innkeeper worm (Urechis caupo) • A ring of prominent setae on the butt end of the fat innkeeper worm (Urechis caupo) • Bay ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) • Lewis’s moon snail (Euspira lewisii) • Bucket filled w/ Pacific gaper clams or “horsenecks” (Tresus nuttallii), white macoma or “sand clams” (Macoma secta), and Lewis’s moon snails • Red rock crabs (Cancer productus) back in the kitchen, icing after boiling ๑ ๑ ๑ ๑ ๑ #BodegaBay #gaebul #FatInnkeeperWorm #UrechisCaupo #BayGhostShrimp #NeotrypaeaCaliforniensis #LewissMoonSnail #EuspiraLewisii #PacificGgaperClam #TresusNuttallii #RedRockCrab #CancerProductus #crabbing #clamming #huntergatherer #SonomaCounty #California #naturalhistory
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 not many are aware of it.
Using contractions (peristalsis) to pump water through its burrow, the worm sucks plankton, bacteria, and other bits into a sticky mucous net that it exodus from ring of glands, slurping all content back into its mouth, hence it can be seen pulsating.
These worms main threats come from predators like the seagulls, otters, and is also eaten by human beings in some south-east Asian countries where it is considered a delicacy, popularly known as gaebul.