A tangled mass of what looked like discarded yellow rope recently washed up on a beach in Texas. But this peculiar knotty pile wasn’t garbage. It was a colorful sea whip — a type of soft, flexible coral. 

Rebekah Claussen, a National Park Service (NPS) guide at the Padre Island National Seashore near the Gulf of Mexico, found one of these “rope balls” partly buried in the sand, and the park shared her photo on Facebook on Feb. 1.