Beware the Bryozoans!

Our neighbor David  paddled over in his kayak, a red plastic bucket straddled between his knees. Inside, he’d scooped up an alien gelatinous glob that had attached to his dock. We weren’t surprised, having already seen colonies of these brain-like UFO’s, unidentified floating objects, while canoeing around the lake early that morning.

Days at the lake usually provide opportunities  to observe nature often overlooked in our suburban and urban lives. We sit on a deck watching the multi-generational geese families arrive at dusk for their evening meal. The parents mindfully protect the little ones; the teenagers tease each other, guarding their patch of grass from more aggressive birds. We see ducks, usually in pairs, circling the lake, alighting seldom, dunking their heads into the water as they snag a tiny fish. Turtles sunbathe on rocks, jumping into the water if we approach by boat.  Deer abound, of course. There’s been the occasional black bear and red fox and blue heron. Bats, owls, hawks and eagles are common.

We’ve had our share of  plant invaders- various weeds that spread in patches, harmless but annoying to swim or boat through. These tend to disappear when either treated by the state environmental patrol or with the change in seasons.

When my mother, friend Sharon, and I saw this new growth, volleyball -sized Jell-O globs, attached to each other like a string of buoys, we assumed it was either caused by some chemical runoff from lawns or from fungus. An Internet searched didn’t match any of its qualities and we were stumped.

David had cut the glob in half, revealing a three-inch wall of hard gelatin and a hollow inside. We returned to the computer and entered “gelatinous lake blobs” and quickly identified our new inhabitant as Bryozoans, or moss animals.  Our crash course in biology taught us that these invertebrates, date back 500,000,000 years, are hermaphrodites, are harmless to humans, and impervious to cold or heat—they won’t die in frozen water or dry out – in other words, impossible to get rid of! Seems like the perfect fodder for a science fiction story.

There are three colonies on the other side of our lake, the shallower side.  They are attached to submerged tree branches, felled by storms. David had only one glob on his dock; we’re hoping they don’t spread. In the meantime, I’ll swim and kayak, aware these gross, slimy globs are there, and avoid them.

Sharon paddling away from the Bryozoans.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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36 Responses to Beware the Bryozoans!

  1. SMB says:

    How wonderful! Bryozoans! How I laughed when I read “Sharon paddling away from the Bryozoans”. Definitely the stuff of Sci-Fi. Did you discover what attracts them or causes them to form? They are new to the lake? Your post reminded me of Annie Dillard’s wonderful book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”.

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  2. EWW. Between the scuzz that is the floor of the lake and now this sh++ – I’m retinking my visit. Sorry, I’m a bit too jappy and a bit too not-into-nature for the likes of that!!

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  3. Ewww Like giant jellyfish, so the good thing is they don’t sting?!

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  4. Wow. I took invertebrate anatomy in college. These are quite scarey looking. I remember dissecting the starfish and look at jellyfish in a different way. These globs are large. My nerdy size took over and I had to research for myself. So I found out bryozoans produce a remarkable variety of chemical compounds, some of which may find uses in medicine. One compound produced by a common marine bryozoan, the drug bryostatin 1, is currently under serious testing as an anti-cancer drug. You have the type called Pectinatella magnifica http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1H3e0Iynso
    So I watched the YouTube Video. So, I am impressed with nature and I admire your determination to continue your activities.

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  5. Very cool… like the photos of them in the water.

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  6. I had never heard of these before. Sort of like the pizza vomit monsters on Star Trek. So sorry!

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  7. Patti Winker says:

    Cool! The pictures are wonderful and worthy of a science fiction movie. Reminds me of the pods underwater in the movie “Cocoon.” I guess I wouldn’t want to swim over them but I would canoe or kayak over the top to get a look. I grew up on a river and have always been drawn to water and all the critters therein. We now live on the Gulf of Mexico, on the panhandle (which is a much different environment than the other shores) and enjoy lots of weird stuff, including what we call blue bottle jelly fish and the moon jelly fish. They make walking the beach and swimming a bit difficult, but are very interesting. All the critters are seasonal, so maybe your visitors are, too. Keep us posted. And give Spielberg a call. 😉

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    • They are in the shallow part of the lake so we wouldn’t be swimming there anyway, but I’m sure they will be spot for lots of boat visits. We saw some young boys exploring in a boat and calling them aliens.

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  8. Patti Winker says:

    Oh, and thanks, Judy Washington, for the info. Very fun.

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  9. zannyro says:

    ewwwwwwwwww… 🙂

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  10. Barbara klein says:

    I kind of likened these Bryozoans to the pods in “Cacoon”, too. Who knows? As property owners on the lake you may be getting in on the ground floor of the greatest cure for cancer. Don’t forget your old mother. I was there, too. Love Mom. Between the bryozoans and Livolt the Winklers and Kleins will make history

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  11. Barbara Younger says:

    Amazing! Never heard of such a creature. Great post.

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  12. Adeena says:

    Great! Now you can bottle a cure for cancer and a great treatment for shiny hair 😉

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  13. I have really enjoyed these posts. Thanks for the opportunity to laugh.

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  14. adinparadise says:

    Yukky-boos! Beware the Bryozoan invaders. 😀

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  15. eof737 says:

    WoW! What a strange thing… Love the photos. 😉

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  16. Jo Bryant says:

    they actually look quite pretty

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  17. Galen says:

    In 1958 I went to the movies and saw Steve McQueen battle “The Blob”. It left an impression on a young kid like me. As I saw in an earlier comment… there is an explanation for your blobs… but they are “blobs” none the less! A great selection for the “growth” theme… well done!

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  18. These are why I only swim in the bath…. :+)

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  19. they look pretty under water and add to the lake’s ecology 🙂

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  20. Amazing photos – when you do your novel, don’t forget to ask fro movie rights!

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  21. pixitales says:

    They look like the life found in other planets, if there where… scary… they are HERE!!!!

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  22. SanVar says:

    Wow interesting !!!

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  23. Amar Naik says:

    nice shot

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  24. Madelaine says:

    Fascinating and well-shot! 🙂

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  25. Pingback: Summer Invasions: Cicadas & Geese | cyclingrandma

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