Photo from ILoveShelling.com
What exactly is that mysterious “blob” that Sanibel Island guests have been known to run across on the beach?
Is it a plant? An animal? Some type of alien spy? The peculiar blob is known as a sea pork, not to be confused with any relative of Wilbur’s.
Scientifically, a sea pork is a “tunicate,” an invertebrate that has been siphoning, filtering, and squirting water for hundreds of millions of years. The slimy outfit, or “tunic,” you see is actually a colony of teensy-tiny creatures called “zooids” that protect themselves with a sac partly made of cellulose, which acts like a strong, squishy armor.
Sea pork is common along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They can grow up to 12 inches or more and weigh up to 10 pounds. While alive, sea pork is incredibly colorful and can be found in different hues of pink, green, red, lavender, black, gray and orange. Once they perish, however, the color quickly fades.
Regardless, it’s one of the most odd forms of sea life you can encounter. Just remember, it’s no pork chop — many of them have poisonous flesh to fend off predators!