So many sea creatures we don’t know about until a beachcast drops them at our feet. It happened again on December 13th, 2016. When I topped the foredune just ahead of the high tide, I didn’t know a mystery awaited in the drift line.
I had to get on Twitter right away to find out what I was looking at. Within minutes @RebaFay and @mle425 helped me out. They are both great naturalists, and I’m grateful to them for letting me know the spiny cartilaginous-feeling organisms I found were pelagic colonial tunicates called pyrosomes.
Jackie Sones shares a ton of interesting information about this, or a very similar pyrosome, in “Fire bodies”. Her blog, The Natural History of Bodega Head, is wonderful and full of great coastal natural history. iNaturalist has a page on pyrosomes here. A recent article, Rare, Bizarre Glowing Creatures Strand on Oregon Coast Beaches, gives additional information about pyrosomes and photos by Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium.
I thank Emily Jones and Rebecca Johnson for helping me identify the pyrosomes and pointing me to “Fire Bodies” and the iNaturalist page on pyrosomes. I am also grateful to Stephen Grace for bringing the article about pyrosomes on Oregon coast beaches to my attention. Stephen is the author of Tides and Trails, a website and blog devoted to great photos and the natural history of the northern Oregon coast; it’s well worth following Stephen’s work.
I updated this post on January 14, 2023.