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Strange Egg Casings Found on Oregon Coast - But Some Know What They Are

Published 03/22/2019 at 3:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Strange Egg Casings Found on Oregon Coast - But Some Know What They Are

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(Seaside, Oregon) – A run of "strange eggs" found along the Oregon coast has caught the eyes of beachgoers lately, with reports coming in from all over the shoreline. (All photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium / Tiffany Boothe).

People are scratching their heads, but Seaside Aquarium and their public education specialist Tiffany Boothe know exactly what they are. She's been answering a lot of questions lately.

“We have heard reports of findings up and down the coast but with a large concentration on Gearhart beach,” Boothe said. “These strange gelatinous tubes are squid eggs. Squid form large schools and lay their eggs together on the bottom of the seafloor. Each female may lay up to 12 egg capsules and each egg capsule has between 180 and 300 eggs developing inside. As the eggs develop you can actually see the baby squid moving while still in the egg. When they hatch they are about the size of a grain of rice.”

Meanwhile, the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport has been showing off skate eggs in recent days.

These creatures at Seaside Aquarium are called Opalescent squid (Loligo opalescens) and they can reach up to 11 inches in length. They are found from Mexico to northern British Columbia and come into shallow waters to spawn.

“During the spring and summer large schools of Opalescent Squid move into shallow coves and bays to mate, lay their eggs, and die,” Boothe said. “Each female lays about a dozen cigar-shaped egg capsules, each containing 180 to 300 eggs.”

After that, the egg sacs automatically attach to each other, forming huge clusters. It then takes about five weeks for them to hatch.

Nature has a unique way of hiding these from predators: the capsules have no taste or odor.

Over the last decade and beyond, Seaside Aquarium has been picking these up and the egg casings of skates with regularity, letting them hatch in tanks. At one point in 2007, Boothe proclaimed “We have babies!” after some locals picked up a few of the skate eggs on the beach and one egg clearly had living creatures inside. They counted four healthy embryos that time, but have had more in other instances. The year before they had six of them hatch in the tanks.

Back then she told Oregon Coast Beach Connection: “They probably have about six months before they are ready to leave their protective casing. Until then they cannot be on display. Their eyes are sensitive to light at this stage.”

These squid eggs are also expected to create a new brood. You'll likely see them on display at Seaside Aquarium later in spring.

West winds bring stuff like this onshore. In fact, squid eggs and skate eggs are a very common find this time of year. Boothe said it is also possible to find whale burps, ocean burps and even glass floats.

“Whale burps” is the nickname for rock-hard bundles of sea grass that have been compressed together. There are also “ocean burps,” a very loose term for bundles of sundry objects that get stuck together and tossed up by the tide, which often yield still living specimens like live egg casings from various species.

Egg casings from skates are often referred to as “Mermaid Purses” (picture at bottom of article), Skate egg cases are frequently found by local beachcombers. Boothe said that although its appearance resembles seaweed, it is a very tough, protective casing which can contain anywhere from two to seven embryos per casing.

“Adult female skates will drop these on the ocean floor, where the casing will drift for nine to twelve months,” Boothe said. “During that time, the embryos feed upon a yolk sack that they are attached to. When the babies are developed enough to be self-sufficient, one end of the casing will open up and the baby skates - now 3.5 inches long – will emerge.” Lodging in Astoria/Seaside - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours





Below: the egg casing for a skate, found by the aquarium in the past

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