If you missed them this spring, you can go to the beach, walk the high tide line and see scores of pyrosomes — soft, opaque, pickle-like sea creatures — washed up again in Oregon, including Mill Beach in Brookings.
Thursday, a few beachcombers — with curious dogs in tow — tentatively poked at them with sticks, wondering aloud what they were.
While not as large as those that clogged marine engines and became entangled in fishing nets last spring, these are about 2 to 3 inches long, light lilac in color and soft to the touch. The ones on Mill Beach were found dead along the high tide line.
Very little is known about them, oceanic researchers told the Pilot last spring when they were first seen on local beaches. But they don’t belong here.
Scientists do know pyrosomes aren’t a single organism, but comprised of hundreds of individual ones, said Caren Braby, a marine resources program manager with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They likely eat bacteria through a tube formed by the individual organisms. They lack vertebrae, can grow to 30 feet in length — and some glow in the dark.
re ho w far out or deep they travel, said Rick Brodeur of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. This spring, researchers lowered cameras from boats to their maximum depth of 100 meters, about the length of a football field, and the creatures could be seen deeper still.
What piques researchers’ interest is that pyrosomes usually live in warmer waters thousands of miles from the West Coast.
They and other warm-water-loving animals — sharks, tuna and tropical sea snakes among them — started showing up in 2014 and 2015, when a so-called “blob” of warm water formed and hovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington and British Columbia.
When the blob dissipated, the visitors disappeared — except the pyrosomes, which multiplied and started clogging up marine equipment and getting stuck on fishing nets in Washington, Canada and Alaska. They were so problematic, many fishermen stopped fishing for the season, according to newspaper reports from Canada and Alaska.
And pyrosomes were the talk of the dock in Port Orford in late spring when they started showing up on West Coast beaches.
They’re harmless to people and will likely disintegrate in the next few weeks, scientists say.