CORONADO, Calif. — Thousands upon thousands of little pink, slimy critters have been stirring up conversation on social media as beachgoers in Coronado have been asking, ‘What are they?’
For this Earth 8 report, CBS 8’s Brian White headed out to Coronado Beach to see them firsthand and learn more about the pink worms from a local scientist.
“They’re kind of slimy and I wouldn’t want to break one,” said 10-year Coronado resident, Debbie Reger. “You know, you kind of don’t want to touch them, but you do anyway.”
The wormy creatures have been causing quite a stir on Coronado Facebook groups.
Why are they showing up in Coronado?
“I’m excited that people are excited about worms,” said Charlotte Seid, a Museum Scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she manages the benthic invertebrate collection of over 800,000 bottom-dwelling spineless animal specimens.
“Right here, we actually have a preserved specimen of the animals that caused such a sensation on the beach,” said Seid while picking up a small jar. “These are ‘spoon worms.’ They are relatives of earth worms except they live under the waves and they burrow into the sand rather than in your garden.”
“Unfortunately, with all that wave action, they were probably dislodged from their homes and got tumbled around and ended up where we can see them up above the water,” said Seid
Scientifically, they’re called, ‘Urechis caupo,’ but a common name is the ‘fat innkeeper worm,’ because other small animals like little worms and crabs like to take refuge in their burrows too. And as it turns out, they’re pretty good stewards of the environment.
“They’re eating sediment, they’re cleaning that water everything that comes through their burrows,” said Seid. “That may seem yucky to us, but it’s delicious to them, they’re doing us and the environment a favor.”
While they’re not necessarily edible for humans, leopard sharks, however, find them to be a tasty snack.
“I’m not going there,” said Reger while laughing. “As darling as they may be, not going to eat one.”
To view a real-time map on iNaturalist where these animals have been observed, visit here.
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