A strange looking life form which looks like a discarded bit of rope has washed up on a beach.
Park guide Rebekah Claussen found the enigmatic critter while working at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.
To the naked eye, it looks like some sort of yellow cord that’s been washed around by the ocean current.
On closer inspection, the washing-line like organism turns out to be a living coral called sea whip.
Rebekah said: “I’ve worked here for five years now and when I first moved here, I didn’t really know what sea whip was.
“I thought, like most people who see it, that it was some sort of wire or rope.
“But it’s a type of soft coral.”
She continued: “The yellow part is hard but the whole thing is still fairly flexible when you pick it up.
“It can also be other colours like red, purple or white, but we’ve only seen the yellow and red here.
“The yellow part is actually the living part of the coral known as polyps.
“These polyps grow upon one another in a single stem.
“Sometimes you can see black bits underneath the yellow and that’s the skeleton of the coral.
“In the water, the sea whip actually grows in a branch-like formation – they often look like very thin tree branches.”
Rebekah triggered amazement when she posted images of the sea whip online.
One person said: “There’s no way I wouldn’t have thought that to be fibre cable or Cat 5 cable. That’s crazy.”
Another wrote: “We totally picked this up as trash thinking it was fishing net leftovers or something.”
Another person added: “I thought it was yellow cord. That’s awesome.”
Despite the fascination, Rebekah, 39, said the sea whip found on the shore was unlikely to survive and best left alone.
“I simply left it on the beach,” she said.
“Sea whip once washed up is most likely dead and it can actually help nature if it is just left alone.
“It will eventually decompose and be part of the island.”