Things are not always what they seem…
Beach goers often see seashells, seaweed, and trash on the sand that has washed ashore. Numerous people attempt to clean up the trash that is covering the beaches, but many are unaware that some of the things that appear to be trash are not.
Padre Island National Seashore recently posted a photo of what appears to be discarded yellow rope or fishing gear, but it is actually a living creature.
Their followers were shocked to read that the photo was of sea whip coral, not trash.
“Have you ever been out walking the beach, perhaps picking up trash and you come across something that looks like this? We often get asked what this is, and more often people assume that it’s trash. Although it may fool you into thinking that it is some sort of wire, this is actually a type of coral known as sea whip,” said the national park.
While sea whip coral is not what you typically picture when you think of an animal, NOAA claims it is. The brightly-colored coral is considered a sessile animal, meaning they permanently attach themselves to the ocean floor. Sea whip coral has a tree-like shape with eight tentacles.
“Sea whip is a soft coral that can be found from New Jersey all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. It comes in a variety of colors like red, white, purple and yellow. We mostly see the yellow and red varieties washing up on our beaches,” the park wrote.
Countless people said they have mistaken the coral for trash and have thrown it out.
One person commented, “I would’ve never known. Crazy!” Another said, “I used to pick it up thinking it was trash. Glad to know what it is now. Thanks for sharing!”
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Take A Closer Look
“If you look closely at a piece of washed up sea whip, you might notice the black on the inside of this coral. This is the skeleton of the coral, while the colored pieces are the tiny colonies of polyps that make up the living part of the coral,” explained park officials.
Once people learned what to look for, their next question was what should they do if they spot it on the beach?
The park said once the coral washes ashore it is already dead and should not be returned to the sea. “If you put it back in the water, it will just wash up again.” Instead, they advise people to leave it alone as it helps build up the dunes as it decomposes.
They concluded the post with, “So the next time you’re out for a stroll on the beach, look for the sea whip and remember, it’s not trash!”
Sadly, beaches around the world are littered with trash. We must come together to clean them up.
You can help by signing the pledge below to reduce ocean trash and pollution. Together we change the world.
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