Strange “blobs” linger in the waters of Marion County Lake, gobbling up things unseen.
Marion resident Rick LeShure encountered some with 4-year-old son, Lucas, and girlfriend Brandi Bosley on Aug. 8 at the swimming area.
“I grew up messing around in creeks and I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff, but I’ve never seen anything like that before,” LeShure said. “The first one I saw was all messed up looking. I thought it was a steak that someone dropped in the lake a few weeks before, so I pitched it up on the bank. It kinda broke and looked like it bled a little. ”
Then he saw another. It was about the size of a small meatloaf, but this time LeShure knew he wasn’t dealing with a hunk of inanimate beef.
It was alive.
“It felt nasty and slimy and kinda twitched a little in my hands,” he said. “It was just an all around weird critter.”
Marion resident Twila Legg also has encountered multiple “jelly blobs.”
“They’re everywhere,” she said. “You see them on windy days when they break away from their anchors.”
Legg discovered a blob that was “roughly the size of a laundry basket” attached to the northwestern corner of the heated dock. It detached and drifted away Friday.
She said the blobs look like “bad B movie special effects.”
Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson has come across many a blob, the biggest of which was basketball-sized. He said anglers find blobs stuck to snagged tree branches or suction-cupped to docks, rocks, or other submerged debris, or see them floating. Inquisitive children bring blobs to Hudson, too.
“They come running up from the swimming area (to the county lake office) to ask about them,” Hudson said. “The things look like human brains. We tell them that the blobs are safe and give the kids a little history.”
Hudson confirmed that the mysterious “blobs” are actually a species of invertebrate animal similar to a sponge, known as bryozoans.
“They suck in the dark or brackish water and take out its impurities before they spit fresh water back out,” he said. “They’re natural water filters.”
These blobish sieves are nothing new. Actually, with a fossil record that dates back millions of years, bryozoans are ancient.
According to multiple online sources, most bryozoans live in salt water. There are only about 50 kinds of freshwater bryozoans.
Generally, bryozoans are a collection of miniature identical organisms, called zooids, form colonies in warm water like these found in the lake. Each zooid secretes a slimy but firm gelatinous layer for protective purposes.
“Bryozoans’ bodies take on the color of what they filter,” Hudson said. “The ones that I have seen out here are mostly a brownish or darkish color.”
Though bryozoans have peculiar and somewhat alien appearance, Hudson said they’re harmless.
“I would encourage anyone who finds one to put it back in the water and let it do its thing,” he said. “They’re good for the lake.”