What are the Mysterious Slimy Blobs in Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Little Caillou near Chauvin Louisiana?

Different Chauvin residents noticed something strange hundreds of brownish, gelatinous blobs growing in Bayou Terrebonne but have never seen anything like it.

Mysterious Blobs (bryozoan colony) in Bayou Terrebonne in Chauvin june 2013

But what are these odd, gooey sacs multiplying in the bayou? Alien cocoons? Monster eggs? Are these blobs dangerous or poisonous.

The mysterious and jelly-like spheres are actually colonies of tiny, non-threatening animals called bryozoans.

Bryozoans show up regularly in other bayous in the area, including Bayou Black. They do not represent any danger to humans, and they’re an important part of the ecosystem.

bryozoan colony, bryozoan eggs

But what are Bryozoans?

Bryozoans are similar to coral but have more complex bodies. Each of the bulbous masses is a house the bryozoans built. They attach these, called colonies, to whatever convenient space they can find just below the water’s surface.

The colonies can range from fist-size to the width of a cantaloupe or even bigger. Sometimes clumps that break loose can be found free-floating or washed up near the shore.

Scanning electron micrograph of part of a bryozoan colony showing male and female brooding zooids and feeding autozooids

Scanning electron micrograph of part of a bryozoan colony showing male and female brooding zooids and feeding autozooids

 

Each Bryozoan has its own small water-filtering arm to collect food. There are also digestive, nervous and reproductive systems. They feed on plankton and algae. The animals secrete a compound called chitin to build a tiny compartment around themselves.

Bryozoan colony photo

 

Although weird and odd, a good thing about the creatures is that they’re normally indicative of good water quality. They only bloom in still, clear water.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m trying to put together some information on the distribution of this bryozoan, Pectinatella magnifica. I was wondering if you recall when you (or others) first saw them in Bayou Terrebonne, Bayou Little Caillou and Bayou Black, and which of the posted photos was taken at one of these places? Do you know of other sites where they’ve been seen?

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