The animals have gone viral on the Internet in recent days after breaking into a beach in California.
By Maria Clara Rossini
13 Dec 2019, 18:42
You may have seen some semi-pornographic images on the internet in recent days. As much as it sounds, the photo above has nothing to do with the male genital organ. It is the worm Urechis caupo, better known as penis fish. Thousands of them stormed Drake’s Beach in California after a storm last week.
They measure about 20 centimeters and the resemblance to the human penis is undeniable. But the penis fish is as penis as the manatees is manate (with the aggravation of neither being fish). It is an invertebrate marine worm of the Echiura class. It is an annelid, like worms, and not a chordate, a category in which fish are found.
Since it is to make analogy with the human organs, the animal approaches much more of an anus than a penis. At one end, the worm has a hole through which it oozes into the environment, where bacteria and plankton adhere. Then it sucks the mucus back in, feeds on the microorganisms and expels the unfit by a jet of water thrown through that same hole.
The species has been around longer than humans and dinosaurs: no less than 300 million years. By the way, they still live on average until 25 years old. Not bad for a phallus-shaped worm.
The worm is not uncommon on California beaches. He is native to the west coast of the United States and Mexico. Usually it is hidden by mud and sand, but the storm may have rolled the ground and brought a wave of animals to the surface.
2019 is El Niño year, which in practice means stronger storms in some regions. According to the biologist Ivan ParrThis is the best explanation for the sudden emergence of so many animals on the beach. For now, it is not known if this incident will impact the ecosystem of the species.
This is not the first time the animal has become known. It is even consumed in other countries, such as South Korea. The cast of Stranger Things has even encountered such penis fish in a Seoul market when they were welcomed by the kpop group EXO. Take a look at the 7:50 minute of the video: