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.