So many sea creatures we don’t know about until a beach cast drops them at our feet. It happened again on December 13th, 2016. When I topped the foredune just ahead of high tide I didn’t know a mystery awaited in the drift line.

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A startling beach cast

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.

Acknowledgements

I thank Emily Jones and Rebecca Johnson for helping me with the identification of 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 natural history of the northern Oregon coast; it’s well worth following Stephen’s work.

18 thoughts

    1. I was surprised by them. I was on my to photograph a high tide. Got so engrossed in these I missed it! I don’t know if they are still alive or why they ended up on the beach.

      1. Thanks. Sometimes here on the desert, if the wind is from the south, I turn my nose into it and can almost, for a moment, smell the Sea of Cortez. 😉

  1. Hi there, I’m Peter, the Public Relations Coordinator at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Could we use some of your pyrosome photos in a blog post of ours?

    1. Sure Peter, that would be fine. Credit them if possible. Those images may be optimized for the web; I can get you the originals if you need that. Just let me know.

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