Central California beach invaded by large worms emerging from burrows after bomb cyclone
Wildlife enthusiast David Ford captured the foreboding scene, which looks as if a plane full of sausages has opened the hatch and let dogs rain down onto the unassuming shore.
What were these alien creatures and why did they end up on the coast?
Ford submitted his dilemma and the surreal images of the Drakes Beach coastline to Bay Nature magazine, a local science publication.
They are not frank but fat pub worms, almost as old as the wet sand in which they hide.
Bulbous worms can live their entire lives underground, hiding in U-shaped burrows beneath moist sand along the California coast.
Known colloquially as “penis fish” among biologists and hobbyists alike for its phallic shape, the host worm earned its own name by temporarily harboring smaller creatures in its burrows, with little conflict.
Pea crabs, clams, and the tiny arrow goby fish all share space with the worm and eat the food it discards, although there is little for the worm.
There’s no need for fat perch worms to rise to the surface, where otters, seagulls, and humans (they’re a salty South Korean delicacy) might hunt them down, when they can cast a mucous web to catch food and breed from comfort. from their burrows.
That is unless, of course, there is a storm.
“We are looking at the risk of building your home with sand,” Parr wrote in Bay Nature.
The powerful storms that hit Drakes Beach around Thanksgiving dumped an inch of rain and 45-mph wind gusts to the area, which likely fueled the worm’s appearance, Parr told CNN.
The other two previous mass strandings in 2010 and 2016 occurred during El Niño weather events, characterized by warmer-than-average waters that routinely bring more rain to California.
Biologists don’t know.
The resistant worms are ancient creatures, their burrows dating back about 300 million years, Parr said, with one of the oldest worms ever found believed to be 25 years old.
But because they live mostly underground, host worms are hard to quantify, he said.