“The blob from the lost lagoon” might sound like a 1950’s B-movie sci-fi tagline, but it’s actually pulled straight from Canadian headlines this week. Volunteers from the Stanley Park Ecology Society were conducting ecological surveys of one of Vancouver’s most beloved parks this week when they came across a slimy, unexpected find: a strange blob-like creature lying on the bottom of Lost Lagoon.
The lagoon gets its name from a 19th-century poem about the area in which poet Pauline Johnson describes how the lagoon dries up from time to time, hence the “lost” descriptor. Today, the lagoon is more artificial than natural and lies near the entrance of Stanley Park, a busy mixed-use park on the edge of Vancouver’s downtown area. The ecological society was conducting a “Bio-Blitz,” a 24-period of cataloguing all of the plant and animal life in the lagoon when volunteers spotted the curious gelatinous masses on the bottom of the pond.
Upon closer inspection, the Stanley Park Ecology Society’s Kathleen Stormont determined the blob is actually a colony of rare Paleozoic creatures called bryozoans:
It’s kind of like three-day-old Jello — a bit firm but gelatinous. They’re a colony of tiny organisms that like to hang out together. They have a very ancient lineage that hasn’t changed for hundreds of thousands of years. They are these weird and wonderful things that exist and aren’t commonly encountered
Bryozoans are microscopic organisms which reproduce asexually by cloning. One of these blobs is actually a whole colony of clones of a single organism. As a defense and feeding mechanisms, the creatures form a gelatinous mass around their bodies to help filter nutrients out of their surrounding water.
The blobs are usually undetected because they lie on the bottom of murky bodies of fresh water; lower water levels in the Lost Lagoon led to their recent discovery.