Thousands of 'penis fish' wash up on California beach

Bronwen Weatherby
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.

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.