There is a vast, unconquered realm where us humans have only begun to explore and understand. It’s cold, dark, and home to strange creatures we can’t even begin to imagine. Do you think I’m talking about outer space? Not at all. I’m talking about the space below us: the ocean.
The ocean is so close to use and such a big part of our lives that it is hard to think about how unexplored it truly is. There are depths of the ocean that our bodies nor our technology can even venture into. There’s no telling what’s down there, literally.
For as creative as science fiction writers and movie makers are, they don’t hold a candle to nature, especially undersea nature. The creatures who live in the depths of the ocean don’t play by our rules, so they can be incredibly shocking, like this sea creature who resembles tangled ropes.
When you walk along the beach, it’s not uncommon to come across a variety of strange things that have been swept up to shore by the ocean’s waves. You’ll often come across kelp, algae, and other odd looking plants, but who knows what else the waves will wash up. Human-made debris is often found on the shores as well, which is why a tangled mass of yellow rope isn’t the weirdest thing to find on the shore, unless that tangled yellow rope ends up being an undersea creature.
One of these creatures recently found its way on the shores of Texas, looking like a pile of trash, but in actuality it’s a type of coral. It was a National Park Services Guide Rebekah Claussen who found the coral at Padre Island National Seashore and posted it on Facebook.
These sea whips can come in many different colors including yellow, violent, purple, and red. According to Rebekah Claussen’s Facebook post, “we mostly see the yellow and red varieties washing up on our beaches.” Sea whip is the general term for several types of corals, and this one is an especially vibrant one. Their color comes from tiny little animals called polyps who secrete proteins which then branch out into stalks. These stalks can stretch up to 3 feet.
These sea whips are easy to find on the shore because they live so close to the shore. This particular kind can be found anywhere between New Jersey and the Gulf of Mexico. Usually the sea whips will stick to ledges underwater, so they aren’t constantly bombarding our shores with their intense color and odd appearance.
Many people on the facebook post commented that they had come across this type of coral before, but they had thrown it away thinking it was trash. That goes to show you how much this odd coral truly resembles rope. Klaussen mentioned that in her facebook post, saying, "So the next time you're out for a stroll on the beach, look for the sea whip and remember, it's not trash!"
Rebekah Klaussen spoke with Live Science about this particular sea whip, "Generally speaking, most of it is dead when it washes up. To my knowledge, the reason that the coral has washed up is that it has broken off and therefore no longer alive. I'm not sure that you would be able to tell even if it was alive. We recommend just leaving the sea whip on the beach because it is natural and will decompose and help the island," Claussen said.