One of the things I love most about my home state of California is that if you're ever in the market for weird news, you'll never be in short supply if you look towards the Golden State. And boy, is this story weird.
Strange creatures showed up on the Orange County shoreline in San Clemente on June 25. A group of children rescued them and placed them back in the water, but people are curious as to what they are.
Witnesses say, "they looked like little severed fingers, or big bumpy worms, dotting the sand."
“I’ve never seen them here before. We thought they were a toy, but then we saw them all over the place. They are so cool. I’m a teacher, so this sort of stuff fascinates me," said beachgoer Susan Latin.
Fortunately, an expert was quick to weigh in. Juliane Steers, a Marine biologist with the Beach Ecology Coalition said the animals are called "free-floating colonial tunicates" and are normally found in open water. Steers says the creatures were also discovered on occasion in Huntington and Laguna Beach, but never so many as in San Clemente.
“There’s been an outrageous bloom of them lately, over the past couple months. The current has been tracking them south toward San Clemente, probably with the recent swells.”
So what are free-floating colonial tunicates? She says they are "made up of thousands of individuals, or clones, that function together as a colony, uniting together to make one long tubular structure. They also can glow in the dark!
She tunicates can longer than 10-feet, though the San Clemente creatures were said to be three inches. Steers says the creatures can't swim well.
“If there’s a current, they can’t get out of it – they just ride it all the way back to shore and can’t turn around and go back,” Steers said. “They just land on shore and with the extreme high tide and low tide we had this past week, they get up and they are stranded for a while. The high tide comes and take it back.”
If they can't get back to the water, they die.
Thankfully the group of beachgoers were able to get the tunicates back to the water! What an amazing rescue! What do you think of the strange discovery?
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