'Mysterious, jiggly alien pod' found in Virginia lake

Washington, Nov 2 (ANI): An employee at Home Technologies in City Center at Oyster Point saw a large, mysterious blob floating in the Center's manmade lake.

Co-worker Dale Leonart's initial guess was that "it has to be an alien pod."

Pictures of the blob was sent to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, along with an email that read," The object is about 4 feet in diameter. It has moved about 6 feet down the shoreline in the last 24 hours. It 'jiggles' when the waves in the lake hit it... when we prod it, it seems to be spongy feeling... The texture appears to be that of a rock with algae spots on it-it is brown and yellow, with a pattern of some type."

The final consensus was that the organism is Pectinatella magnifica-the "magnificient bryozoan" - inconspicuous filter feeders that grow in thin, encrusting colonies atop rocks, kelp blades, shellfish, and other hard objects.

When they extend their tentatcles to feed, the colony takes on a fuzzy appearance, hence the bryozoans' common name of "moss animal."

Freshwater bryozoans are far less diverse than their marine cousins but what they lack in numbers they make up for in size-like the 4-foot blob in the Centre's lake.

Colonies of Pectinatella magnifica feature a surface layer of adjoining "rosettes"-each with 12-18 animals or "zooids"-around a central jelly-like mass that is 99percent water.

The colonies can be free floating or attached to a piling or other submerged object.

VIMS professor Carl Hershner notes that bryozoans consume algae, so the "alien pod" is "actually a good thing to have around, despite its looks." "It's not a sign of bad water quality," he adds, "and it doesn't hurt fish. It can clog pipes, though, and it will be smelly if it's removed from the water." (ANI)

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