Photos of slippery, living blobs pulled from Minnehaha Creek have prompted Nextdoor users to ask: WTF is this?
“Not sure what I’m looking at, slimy jellyfish-like,” one puzzled user wrote.
“It’s squishy,” another volunteered.
Turns out that slimy, jellyfish-like, squishy creature that resembles Alien eggs is the noble bryozoan, according to DNR aquatic invertebrate biologist Gary Montz.
So, WTF, exactly, are bryozoans? Montz steered us toward a Minnesota Conservation Volunteer article he wrote just last month on that very subject.
Bryozoans are commonly called "moss animals," he writes, and they're actually collections of microscopic, ancient creatures known as zooids. What you see in the image above is the Voltron-like coalescing of thousands of 'em into one gelatinous bryozoan colony, which can grow to the size of a volleyball and attach itself to objects in the water — docks, branches, etc. The colonies are feasted on by snails, scuds, caddisflies, midges, and small fish; they set up shop in shallower waters throughout Minnesota, typically no more than six feet deep. By late summer, bryozoans belch out darkly colored, winter-proof oval discs called statoblasts that can be transported via bird feathers. The following spring, those discs become new zooids and the cycle starts all over again.
What should one do if they encounter bryozoans in the wild?
"Nothing, really," Montz instructs. "Leave the colonies alone and have a bit of wonder about the interesting life that is in our lakes and rivers that many people overlook or don’t know about."
Now you know!