What are these strange, squishy objects washing onto the shores of Huntington Beach, California?
“Definitely baby tremor monsters,” one member of the Huntington Beach Community Forum on Facebook ventured as a guess.
Some other guesses from the thread?
-Aliens sent here to sick our brains out and rule our world
-Creepy sea creatures
-Jelly fish eggs
The Facebook forum is filled with creative guesses, but Matthew Bracken, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, has a pretty good idea.
“I’m almost positive that they are burrowing sea cucumbers,” said Bracken. “They usually live buried in the sand.”
And as noted by the Facebook group, they’re definitely burrowers.
According to Bracken, sea cucumbers are typically pretty common on sandy beaches, but they usually remain hidden since their tendency is to burrow. Bracken says that they can appear during any season, but he has an idea as to why they’ve been so prevalent recently.
“My guess is that the recent storms washed the sand away and exposed them,” he said.
Some people in the Facebook group have said that they would be afraid to touch them, but there is one photo of a person holding a handful of them.
“They are absolutely harmless,” said Bracken. “They have small spines that help them burrow in the sand, and these may stick to your hand when you pick one up, but they cannot hurt you.”
Within a day, most had disappeared from view. But before they burrowed back into their sandy homes, residents had a chance to enjoy a glimpse of these typically hidden creatures.
“They’re totally harmless, and they’re pretty cute, really,” said Bracken.