They're worms, actually.
A somewhat haunting sight was discovered at California's Drakes Beach, which is about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Thousands of "penis fish" were scattered across the shore, uprooted from their usual subterranean lives by a recent storm. While they're referred to by this name due to their phallic-like appearance, they're actually called fat innkeeper worms or Urechis caupo. After this story became a trending topic for obvious reasons, many marine life specialists (or invertebrate enthusiasts) were quick to call out the ignorance of placing them in the category of fish. However, this story isn't trending because people are interested in the specifics. It's because they look like penises.
If you would like to know some facts about Urechis caupo though, I'll share some. Ivan Parr, a biologist from the Western Section of the Wildlife Society who spotted them on Dec. 6, explained that these 10-inch pulsating creatures typically live underwater, burrowing in mud or sand. "Yes, the physical design of the fat innkeeper worm has some explaining to do. But the fat innkeeper is perfectly shaped for a life spent underground," wrote Parr. The worms dig U-shaped burrows under the sand that extend several feet long and provide tunnels for other creatures to pass through. While you may have only hear about fat innkeeper worms for the first time this week, there is fossil evidence that they date back 300 million years.
Bay Nature Magazine provided information about the "penis fish" for all those curious in an Instagram post that has attracted a lot of attention. In the caption, they wrote: "Next time you go to the beach, just think about the hundreds of 10-inch, pink sausages wiggling around just a few feet under the sand." However, I think I speak for all of us when I say we'd prefer not to.