Aquatic Ecologists Are Struggling To Identify This Bizarre Moving Goo

2020 do be like that sometimes. Photo by Brad Eifert

Researchers walking in Nebraska were shocked to find something straight off the set of Venom this week. A white slime that looked a little like the pith had fallen off an orange and achieved autonomy was discovered in a pool of water. After searching the areas for clues as to what on Earth the strange substance might be, they discovered there were several that all appeared to be twitching as if alive.

The bizarre finding has sparked excitement among scientists on Twitter, with many attempting to identify the UFO (unidentified freaky object). Some have debated whether the web of tendrils is moving by itself or is merely the influence of fish pecking at it from below. However, a brightened version of the video doesn’t seem to clearly show any disturbances in the water’s surface tension. If this were the case, it could be that the white blobs are simply some kind of bizarre, decaying plant or animal matter.

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One professor even suggested it could be the “guts or nervous system of an animal that is falling apart and still has some autonomous reflexes,” but how on Earth such remains could make it to the pond in their condition is a mystery unto itself.

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Amie Robison aka The Pond Lady, who first posted the video by Brad Eifert on Twitter, spoke to IFLScience about the unusual discovery. “We are leaning towards it being some kind of aquatic slime mold. I never knew there were aquatic versions. It was really a search image thing that made me think that's what we were dealing with, very strange though. I've been studying aquatic ecosystems in Oklahoma for over 20 years and have never run across this, so I'm fascinated!”

Some of the blobs were floating free while others had gathered around plant material. Photo by Brad Eifert

Slime mold is a collective name given to eukaryotic organisms that can exist as single cells or aggregate to form multicellular structures that can reproduce. Unsurprisingly, they often resemble slime and are famous for their decision making. Like Venom, they can be chopped up and still successfully fuse back together and grow by extending bizarre gooey tendrils. Aquatic versions can be white with the appearance of moving coral, which to the eye is what our mysterious organism appears to best reflect. According to Robison, another popular guess is that it’s some kind of hydrophobic bacteria, but she states her gut still says aquatic slime mold.

Those who made the discovery have collected samples to confirm the ID. Photo by Brad Eifert

Nathan Wilhite who was part of the group that found the strange organism said on Twitter that samples had been taken from the water with hopes they’ll be able to share a definitive ID on the social media platform soon. For now, feel free to let your imagination run wild as to which contender is entering the penultimate season of 2020.

"Eyes. Lungs. Pancreas. So many snacks, so little time" mysterious blob, 2020. Photo by Brad Eifert

If you think you know what it is, please share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter or email us at social@iflscience.com

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