Thousands of 10-inch worms known as 'penis fish' inundated a California beach. A biologist says they feel like a 'slimy water balloon.'
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Thousands of fat innkeeper worms on Drakes Beach in Point Reyes, California, on December 6.
- A beach in Point Reyes, California, was inundated with thousands of marine worms known as "penis fish" on December 6.
- The pink creatures, sometimes also called "fat innkeeper worms," usually live under the sand but were stranded on the beach after a storm.
- According to one biologist, the worm feels like a "slimy water balloon."
- Otters, rays, and even some people like to eat these marine worms.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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.
A marine spoon worm nicknamed the "penis fish" outside its burrow underwater near Point Lobos, California, in 2005.