Thousands of 'penis fish' wash up on California beach

Bronwen Weatherby
Kate Montana/iNaturalist
Kate Montana/iNaturalist

Thousands of "penis fish" have washed up on a beach in California.

The creatures, also known as the fat innkeeper worm, appeared on Drakes Beach after a storm disturbed their underwater homes.

The sea dwellers, normally at home deep beneath human feet, were left exposed on the shore much to the horror and fascination of the Internet.

Some of the marine wildlife grow up to 10 inches long and look like "pink sausages", according to some.

The phallic-shaped phenomenon typically curl into a U-shape to burrow deep into the mud or sand, making room for other animals to move in, hence its name "inkeeper".

They are a type of spoon worm with a spatula-shape limb which they use to both feed and swim.

They can have a lifespan of 25 years.

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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

A post shared by Christopher Reiger (@christopherreiger) on Feb 18, 2019 at 9:20am PST

Experts say they have found evidence of these bacteria and plankton eating worms dating back 300 million years.

Seagulls could be seen swooping down and eating the small fish - who are normally eaten by other fish, sharks and rays despite having a set of teeth themselves.

The fish is also a human delicacy with South Koreans.