‘Penis Fish’ Flood California Beach, and Yes, They Look Exactly Like What You Think nstagram: Baynaturemagazine
Instagram: Baynaturemagazine

I’m really sorry to whoever is reading this because this is definitely gross. But it’s worth seeing because I didn’t think these little fish existed. Turns out thousands of fat Innkeeper worms, known as penis fish, washed up on a Northern California beach. An image of the worms was posted on Instagram by Bay Nature and quickly went viral because it looks insane.

According to Bay Nature magazine, thousands of the Marine worms, called fat innkeeper worms, were found on Drake’s Beach. They stated, ?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.?

The magazine explained that the pulsating 10-inch worms may have been washed up by a strong storm that disrupted sediments in their intertidal zone. Innkeeper worms are also found in De Elkhorn Slough Nature Reserve located in Monterey Bay, California. The penis-shaped fish typically burrow under the sand, far beneath the feet of beachgoers, but the recent storm brought on some heavy waves that swept away the layers which left them exposed.

They are known to be eaten by seagulls who enjoy gobbling up these penis like fish, as do otters, sharks, rays, and other fish. But apparently, this penis fish is a human delicacy to some and is eaten on a regular basis in South Korea.

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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 worms also called Urechis Unicinctus, lives in a U-shaped tunnel or Barrow, and has a very unique method of eating. It secretes a slime net, which then traps all small food particles. The worm then circulates water through the tunnel, trapping the food in the Slime. When the mucus net becomes loaded with food, ?The entire net, with its burden of food, is swallowed by the worm.

Apparently, these worms can reach up to 19 inches long but are usually just 6 to 9 inches. Thank God, really, because these creatures look more than creepy and disgusting if you ask me. Thanks, nature, I can’t go to the beach anymore. All I’m gonna think about are these pink sausages whenever I step on the muddy sand.


This post was originally published December 13, 2019.

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Silke  Jasso About the author:
Silke Jasso is a bilingual editor, writer, producer, and journalist specialized in online media. Born in Laredo Texas, her previous work includes LareDOS Newspaper where she was an editor and writer and Entravision Communications where she was a Co-Anchor and Multi-Media Journalist for Fox39 News and Univision 27.
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