It’s alien eggs! All over our beaches! Run for your lives! We’re all gonna die!
That knee-jerk reaction was common among beachgoers in Devon and Cornwall this week as they encountered hundreds of strange egg-like objects that appeared overnight. Yes, they looked odd and other-worldly … but aliens? A more reasonable explanation for the eggs (yes, they were at least right on that count) was eventually determined and it sadly reveals what a lack of science education and disdain for the environment and climate says about the actual non-alien residents of this planet.
Clusters of hundreds of the odd orbs were found this week by beachcombers, dog walkers, children, tourists and others strolling on various beaches in Cornwall. They looked to some like strange eggs. Others described them as deflated baseballs or footballs..
There were hundreds of them stretching away as far as you could see along the shoreline – it was quite incredible. The ones I saw were a bit smaller than a football but it’s possible there were some that were bigger…I didn’t want to go any farther along the beach.
Tourist and dog walker Jess Arnieson gave that eyewitness account of what she found at Long Rock between Penzance and Marazion. Photographs posted on the Internet prompted those who stayed awake in biology class to recognize them as the eggs of Echinocardium cordatum – heart-shaped urchins better known as sea potatoes or heart urchins. They’re common along the shores of Britain and Ireland but are generally unseen since they live on the sea bed at depths of up to 650 feet. The “alien eggs” are actually the shells of dead sea potatoes. What brought them to the surface to scare the pants off of people and dogs?
Marine biologists revealed the sad answer … an unusually thick cover of plankton on the surface choked the creatures to death in mass numbers not seen in decades. The last sea potato massacre of this magnitude occurred in May 1995.
While biologists blame the thick oxygen-depleting growth of plankton on unusually calm seas, that’s only half the story. Plankton and algae growths are becoming more common on bodies of water around the world as pollutants in runoffs – particularly in farm and factory areas – feed their growth far faster than tides and plankton-eaters can dissipate them. The result is dead sea potatoes, fish, marine mammals and perhaps humans as all affected by the polluted waters and disruption of the global food chain.
Maybe it would be better if they WERE alien eggs.