Thousands Of 10-inch Worms Known As 'penis Fish' Inundated A California Beach. A Biologist Says They

Discussion in 'News - Breaking News & Political Forum' started by Leeda.the.Paladin, Dec 17, 2019.

  1. Leeda.the.Paladin

    Leeda.the.Paladin Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]
    Thousands of 10-inch worms washed ashore on Drakes Beach in California's Point Reyes National Seashore last weekend.

    Thick and bulbous on one end, with a nipple-like protrusion on the other, these marine spoon worms have the scientific name Urechis caupo, but they're more commonly known as "penis fish" or "fat innkeeper worms."

    David Ford, a photographer who lives in nearby Lagunitas, came across the horde of wriggling worms on December 6.

    "I had no idea what they might be ... It went on for 2 miles," Ford told Vice. "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. A quarter of them looked like they were still alive. The rest were dead. They had a dead-sea-creature smell."

    He snapped a picture and sent it to a local biologist, Ivan Parr, asking, "What happened?"


    Parr published an article in Bay Natureexplaining that the curved creatures Ford saw were, in fact, penis fish.

    Castaways after a storm
    This particular species of worm — which resembles bulging bratwursts or, yes, male genitalia — is found up and down the US Pacific coast, from Baja California to Oregon. They can grow up to 19 inches long.

    According to Parr, the worms probably got stranded above ground after a strong storm forced them out of their sandy underground homes. They usually reside in what's known as the intertidal zone, the area of the shore exposed at low tide but submerged when waters are high.

    [​IMG]
    A marine spoon worm nicknamed the "penis fish" outside its burrow underwater near Point Lobos, California, in 2005.
    Steve Lonhart /NOAA/SIMoN Photo Library
    "Strong storms — especially during El Niño years — are perfectly capable of laying siege to the intertidal zone, breaking apart the sediments, and leaving their contents stranded on shore," Parr wrote in Bay Nature.


    He told Business Insider that this type of stranding has happened before, in 2010 and 2016, "which were El Niño years with big storms."

    The worms have previously washed ashore in Pajaro Dunes, Moss Landing, Bodega Bay, and Princeton Harbor on the California coast.

    Parr added that "if there are more frequent, high-energy storms" in the future, more events like the one Ford witnessed are likely.

    Burrowing worms
    There's a reason for these marine worms' unfortunate resemblance to overcooked hot dogs: They like to burrow up to 2 feet deep into the sand, in U-shaped subterranean tunnels.

    One end of this home — the front end — is covered in a net of mucus that helps the worm snag plankton and bacteria to eat. Once those morsels are digested, the animal then discards the leftovers out the back of its burrow by spraying them from its anus.

    When it's time to reproduce, the creatures eject eggs or sperm out of their burrows in a similar fashion, Parr said. Then they mix in the water.

    [​IMG]
    A beachgoer holds a fat innkeeper worm in Bodega Bay, California, in June.
    Kate Montana, iNaturalist Creative Commons
    The creatures' "innkeeper" nickname is a nod to the fact that, like any good innkeeper, they provide food and shelter for other underwater denizens. Their tunnels are often safe harbors for fish and crabs, while the leftovers they toss out the back get eaten by passing shrimp and clams.

    The worms are, according to Parr, the consummate host.



    A delectable delicacy
    Despite their best efforts to hide under the sand, penis fish often get eaten by stingrays, seagulls, otters, and sharks, Parr said.

    "Rays and sharks have this cool way of leaning over and literally sucking them out of their burrows," he said. "Otters, who are very nimble, can easily dig them up."

    Humans, too, dine on relatives of the penis fish. Another type of marine worm, called Urechis unicinctus — or "gaebul" as it's known to diners — is found in Pacific waters off the coast of China and South Korea. It looks nearly identical to the fat innkeeper worm and is a sought-after item in some South Korean fish markets.

    [​IMG]
    Marine spoon worms at a fish market in Busan, South Korea.
    Wikimedia Commons
    Gaebul is typically consumed raw and has a chewy, salty, and surprisingly sweet taste, according to Atlas Obscura. It is often served with a savory sauce made from sesame oil and salt.

    Parr said he had never tasted gaebul or its California relative.

    "I've held a fat innkeeper worm, but I haven't eaten one yet," he said, adding that "they feel slippery — sort of like a slimy water balloon."
     
  2. vevster

    vevster Well-Known Member

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    They look disgusting.
     
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  3. LavenderMint

    LavenderMint Well-Known Member

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    I saw those about a week ago on YouTube after falling down an exotic foods video hole. All I can say is that, no matter how “good” they taste, seeing the preparation leaves much to be desired. And I’m someone who is a pretty adventurous eater, willing to try almost any food once.

    “Penisfish sashimi” is that YT link you send to the dude who just won’t stay gone.
     
  4. GGsKin

    GGsKin Well-Known Member

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    Yuk! I can't even look at these pics properly (I have a slug phobia and these are triggering). I read the article with some strategic scrolling on my phone until I gave up. This needs to be in that thread Crackers created.
     
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  5. Bette Davis Eyes

    Bette Davis Eyes Melanated Queen

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    I sent this photo to my gf yesterday off of CNN, she about lost it.


    They really look like penises lol
     
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  6. Crackers Phinn

    Crackers Phinn Either A Blessing Or A Lesson.

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    I thought preparing seahorses was disgusting. Ain't got nothing on what comes out of the penis fish.
    :barf:
     
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  7. HappilyLiberal

    HappilyLiberal Well-Known Member

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    Imma take your word for it and don't search!
     
  8. Theresamonet

    Theresamonet Well-Known Member

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    This is nasty. I don't like the ocean.
     
  9. Ms. Tarabotti

    Ms. Tarabotti Well-Known Member

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    Does it taste like chicken?
     
  10. LavenderMint

    LavenderMint Well-Known Member

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    According to several of the YouTube comments, it’s got the typical crisp, briny-sweet, ocean flavor of other sashimi. I’ve eaten jellyfish salad & found it crisp & mostly tasteless but don’t make it a habit to eat raw seafood so I’ll take their word for it.
     
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  11. GinnyP

    GinnyP Well-Known Member

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    :lachen:
     
  12. Lita

    Lita Well-Known Member

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    It looks nasty & it’s making my stomach turn.
     

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