Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

Mystery Solved on Oregon Coast Filament, Fiber-like Finds

Published 02/15/2016 at 5:01 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo by Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium: a close-up of the cellophane worm casings that looke like filaments

(Oregon Coast) – Volunteers for CoastWatch and other experts along the Oregon coast have been puzzled as of late by an abundance of filament-like objects strewn along the beaches, often in sizable piles. They are tiny – about one to two centimeters long – which makes those blobs of them a little more remarkable. (Photo above by Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium: a close-up of the cellophane worm casings that looke like filaments).

CoastWatch members – who comb the beaches with expert eyes to make observations - had been finding them for the last month or so, and were getting increasingly stumped. Until CoastWatch Volunteer Coordinator and scientist Fawn Custer popped up with an answer, that is.

They are the casings of the cellophane worm, a tiny critter with many rings around it, that lives just below the surface of the sand and is covered in a tube. Known as Spiochaetopterus costarum, the cellophane worms' casings get knocked off of them during high surf events and pile up on the shore. The creatures themselves disappear back beneath the surface, however. (Photo at right by Custer).

It comes down to the creatures being taken by surprise by the way sand levels have built up over recent years, then suddenly getting bounced around when their new real estate suddenly turns out to be too close to a raucous surface.

“The last few years the beaches have been building up sand, but this year because of more storm surges, it's been scouring out more sand,” Custer said. “They're always there anyway, just below the surface of the sand. But with the sand levels built higher up, and then more scouring out, they get exposed more.”

The animals are a little less than an inch long and about the width of hair. The casings themselves are about one inch long as well. Once onshore they dry out into those filaments or fibers now being found.

“They feel like hair,” she said. “They're very pliable. You can squeeze them.”

Cellophane worms live just beyond the low tide line, where the tubes sit near or just above the surface of the sand and suck in their food, which is tiny bits of formerly living matter in the ocean. When the tubes come off, they grow another by secreting a kind of goo that eventually hardens back into another tube.

Why so many? Custer said the populations of them are just quite large. Those higher sand levels played a bad trick on them and left them vulnerable to this year's sudden shift in more scouring. Winter sand levels were much lower in the last decade, until about four years ago. During that time, you didn't see so many as they managed to keep ahead of the consistently lowering sand levels.

This year, they were so high up in the massive sand levels they just weren't prepared for all that storm action and more of them lost their casings. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours. More Oregon coast science.

Photos below by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium




 

Also being found in great numbers right now: the sea cucumber (photos by Boothe)

More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

 

A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, saut�ed scallops.
Oregon Coast event or adventure you can't miss
Pacific City, Oregon

 


 


Coastal Spotlight

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Oregon Coast Now: Lowest Tides of Year, Milky Way Gone
Lowest tides of the year, Saturn goes wild as the Milky Way disappears. Astronomy, science, kids
First Annual Yachats Pride Fest Glitters Up the Central Oregon Coast
Yachats will be erupting in joyous revelry with a serious side on June 3 and 4. Yachats events, summer
Doggy Fest and Kite Fest to Greet N. Oregon Coast Visitors
Pacific City hosts its Yappy Days doggy festival on June 17, while this weekend sees a massive kite festival in Rockaway Beach. Pacific City events, Rockaway Beach events. Family, summer
Some Minor Traffic Delays to Watch for on N. Oregon Coast
Work is being done in Tillamook, between Rockaway Beach and Bay City and at Manzanita. Travel tips, summer
Drink a Beer - Save a Fish on N. Oregon Coast
A portion of proceeds from every barrel of Pelican's Five Fin sold will be donated to the Salmon Superhighwy
Oregon Coast Science: What Are Those Shafts of Sunlight / Fingers of God?
They are called crepuscular rays and they mostly happen around sunset or sunrise. Weather
Large Event at N. Oregon Coast's Oswald West Includes Hikes, Science, BBQ
It all takes place on May 20 at Oswald West State Park. Manzanita events
N. Oregon Coast History Talks: Tillamook Fire, Beach Bill in Seaside
A special talk in Seaside this month, while the museum in Tillamook looks a fire that changed the town's history. Seaside events, Tillamook events

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on BeachConnection.net
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright BeachConnection.net Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted