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Thousands of mysterious, gelatinous creatures that washed up on a local beach have been explained

Thousands of mysterious, gelatinous creatures that washed up on a local beach have been explained
Photograph: @leslielle76 / Instagram

Thousands of squirming, pink, liquid-filled pods have suddenly appeared on the sand in Huntington Beach. The casual eye might mistake them for seaweed pulp, if it weren’t for the fact that they wiggle and move around on their own. When they first appeared in early December, it was in a small number and they disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived. Then, over the weekend, they returned in droves, covering the beach. Scientists didn’t know how to explain what the creatures were or what they were doing there. Now, after undergoing testing at several local universities and labs, we finally know what they actually are. 

It turns out that they aren’t space-alien eggs or a new form of jellyfish, but rather an unusual variety of burrowing sea cucumber. The identification was confirmed on Monday by invertebrate taxonomists at Cal State Long Beach and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Irvine, according to the O.C. Register.

The sea cucumbers have probably been living in the area for some time, but are rarely seen because they prefer to live under the surface of the sand. Recent rainstorms and severe winds displaced them from their usual burrows just underneath your feet and brought them to the surface. Left to their own devices, they will likely try to dig their way back underground as quickly as they can.

Officially known as Leptosynapta clarki, this species of sea cucumber has usually been spotted before in the colder waters of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, though it is not unheard of for them to come farther south. Other than probably being pretty gross to step on, there is nothing to suggest they present any threat to humans or the beach.

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