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S. Oregon Coast Find at Brookings Looks Like 'Alien' Eggs, But the Science is Wow / Video

Published 08/10/23 at 3:41 a.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Brookings, Oregon) – So, you're quietly walking along the beach, at like, say somewhere on the south Oregon coast. It's a calming, sunny day on this stretch at Brookings. Then something pops out at you from the sands. Luckily, not literally. Yet by the look of it, this doesn't seem out of place in the Alien movie franchise, so it seems as if it's perhaps capable of doing that. (Photos / video Kelsi Parke unless otherwise noted)

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It's a gray mass of semi-circular darkness in the sands, bulging in spots with what look like eggs. You've seen enough movies to figure what could happen next, right?

Well, if you're southern Oregon resident Kelsi Parke, you're braver than that. You take photos and video, and then you leave it alone just in case this thing is hosting some babies that need to be born at sea. Heading online, Parke next asked for some help in the Life on the Oregon Coast Facebook group.

Lots of Alien movie jokes ensued.

Posted by Kelsi Parke on Tuesday, August 8, 2023

The truth, however, wound up a little odder than that fiction. Oregon Coast Beach Connection asked Tiffany Boothe from Seaside Aquarium what it was and she responded that it was a salp. These are creatures that are gelatinous in nature but they have nothing to do with jellyfish at all – they're more of a bulbous, self-cloning sea critter that are more closely related to fish.

Yet salps on the Oregon coast are translucent, are they not? When they wash up – and that's pretty frequently – they show up as rather murky white to very see-through. So what was going on with the dark gray and the egg-like features?

All Ridley Scott and face-clamping monster jokes aside, it was OSU's Sheanna Steingass that answered that one. It really came down to it being dead and decayed on the beach for awhile.

“Salps are primarily composed of gelatinous protein structures which is heavily infused with water, which gives them a transparent appearance under water, except for the gonad structures,” Steingass told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “Because this is on the beach and probably has spent some time in the sun rather than decomposing, it’s essentially become jerky and doesn’t look very recognizable.”

Those bubbles that look like eggs? They're not really eggs at all.

“You can see those ‘bubbles’ really contain most of the animal's digestive and reproductive organs,” Steingass said.

In this photo by Boothe, this is what salps normally look like on the beaches.

As if nature isn't freaky enough, when things die on the beach or ocean they can get much weirder. A good example of that is sometimes whale bodies decompose out there and just parts of them wash in. These can be so decomposed the flesh is hanging in minute threads and looks like hair. These sightings gave rise to legends of paranormal creatures washing up, later acquiring the term “globster.” In the latter half of the century, people finally figured out these were simply really decayed carcasses. See Ewww, 'Globsters' of Oregon / Washington Coast and Their Paranormal Past

Salps are plenty odd in their own ways, compared to other lifeforms on Earth. This particular one Parke found shows it is in aggregate form – meaning it's part of a colony of itself. It has more or less cloned itself (reproduced asexually), and parts of these are still attached. In the ocean, these can form enormous chains.

See A Rundown of Jelly-Like Salps of Oregon, Washington Coasts. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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