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Thousands of 'Penis Fish' Wash Up on California Beach and Social Media is 'Shook'

According to a report, these creatures are marine worms and are called “fat innkeeper worms.”

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Updated:December 14, 2019, 10:25 AM IST
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Thousands of 'Penis Fish' Wash Up on California Beach and Social Media is 'Shook'
( Image credits: Instagram / @baynaturemagazine )

Following a bout of winter storms, thousands of phallic shaped sea creatures have drifted to the shore on a California beach. Due to its shape, the “pulsing penis fish” have raised eyebrows on social media.

Ivan Parr, biologist from the Western Section of The Wildlife Society, first spotted the creatures and explained that 10-inch creature typically lives underwater.

According to a report by Bay Nature magazine, these creatures are marine worms and are called “fat innkeeper worms.” However, colloquially, they are called exactly what they look like: penis fish.

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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)

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The caption informed, “A recent storm in Northern California brought strong waves that washed away several feet of sand from the inter-tidal zone, leaving all these fat innkeeper worms exposed on the surface.”

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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

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The New York Post reported that the creature typically eats bacteria, plankton and other small particles which it collects using “sticky mucus nets”. It further informed that the creatures’ dates back 300 million years and also can be eaten.

An anonymous employee at The Post, who has eaten the worm in Shanghai, China, has described the taste as “a Livestrong band mated with a clam.”

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