Not entirely sure if this is an animal, a plant, or somewhere between the two, like plankton. There were hundreds of these in the sand just at the edge of the water, with the fronds sticking out, and the long stalk covered in debris burried. They seem to be protected by a layer of sand, grit and shell fragments over the stalk part, and some bits stuck between the fronds (tentacles?)
I think it must be something like plankton, in that it's neither animal or vegetable. It certainly made no hurry to burry itself again after we got it out, so it seems pretty much inanimate. They mostly grew about half a foot from one another. I can only assume by the anatomy that it's some sort of filter-feeder. Size wise, it's about 20mm long from end to end, with the fronds being just under half of that length.
Sorry there's no photo of it burried, I couldn't get a good one. It was essentially just the fronds sticking out of a shallow pit.
Thanks for any help identifying it.
By the way: Plankton are, by definition, creatures1 "drifting around" in water..
1 animals as well as "vegetables" and things we don't all agree on where to place.
Hello. I agree with Episcophagus that this is most likely the marine worm Lanice conchilega, otherwise known as the Sand Mason. What you have photographed is a clever little house the worm constructs for itself from sand and shell fragments, held together with quite a tough mucus "bio-glue" they produce. The worm lives inside, coming out of the hole in the centre of the fan, then disappearing back down the tube when it's disturbed. You quite often see them at this time of year, appearing at low tide especially if there has been a tidal swell that shifts some of the top layer of sand and making them more obvious. Hope this helps, Janet