Solved: The Mystery of the Ellis Creek Gelatinous Blobs
Growing up in the rural small town of Waverly, NY, my siblings and I spent a lot of time at the creek. The creek I’m referring to is Ellis Creek. One summer, somewhere between 1986-1988, we were shocked to see the creek full of these disgusting, floating gelatinous blobs. They ranged from the size of a baseball to that of a basketball. We were completely bewildered. I refused to touch them. I thought they might be some kind of freshwater jellyfish, except that they didn’t appear to be moving of their own will. Only the slow current of the water propelled them along.
After stumbling over an entry on del.icio.us by Daniel Rench, I believe the mystery is now solved. He bookmarked an article in Canada’s The Windsor Star newspaper, “Invasion of the Belle River blobs”, by Sharon Hill, published 2007-08-08.Aug.Wed. The blobs were actually colonies of the invertebrate “pectinatella magnifica”.
Here are some facts I’ve gathered about “Pectinatella Magnifica” from the article and a few google searches:
- The individual invertebrates are called zooids and are about a millimetre long
- Thousands of them cluster together and form a mass, secreting a jelly which forms the coelom (the large, gelatinous inner body cavity)
- The whole cluster can grow to the size of a basketball.
- They eat algae and tiny aquatic animals.
- The hermaphrodites die by the end of summer after fertilizing themselves, leaving resting spores to reboot the process next summer.
- Pectinatella magnifica is a member of the animal phylum Ectoprocta, a group with a fossil record extending back to the upper Cambrian period (500,000,000 years ago).
- They are commonly referred to as bryozoans or moss animals.
The images here are some I found on the web that most resemble the floating creek blobs I saw as a child
Lifeforms can be weird, huh?