MERCER CO., Pa. (WKBN) – Some mysterious alien-like blobs have been washing ashore at the Shenango River Lake.
The organisms, called bryozoans, are not harmful. The name translates from Latin as “moss animals,” and the egg-looking organisms can’t move.
“These freshwater bryozoan are actually made up of hundreds to thousands of individual animals, so they create these gelatinous colonies,” says Monica King of the Shenango River Watchers.
The nonprofit organization formed to restore and protect the environmental, scenic and recreational attributes of the Shenango River Watershed.
Several microscopic animals join together and create a unique rosette pattern. This base attaches to anything stationary below the water, creating the bryozoans.
“This time of year, when the temperatures start dipping at night … the colonies actually break up, and they break away from whatever they’ve been attached to all summer,” says King. “Once they start breaking away, they start washing up on shore.”
Bryozoans are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. They’re similar to oysters, eating algae and bacteria, filtering the water as they feed.
“They have cilia on their mouthparts that help them feed since they don’t have any arms or legs or anything. They don’t have any respiratory systems,” says King.
The bryozoan present at the Shenango River Lake have a slight odor to them. They have a somewhat squishy but firm texture, almost like slimy silicone.
There are over 4,000 species found worldwide. About 50 only live in freshwater like the Shenango River Lake.