Poke 'em with a stick!
August 24, 2009 10:36 PM   Subscribe

What is this slimy mess?

Hubby and I plopped the canoe in Round Lake in Camas, Washington today and came upon these slimy masses hanging in the water from low branches. I've seen frogs eggs before, and they've looked nothing like this. There were a great many empty snail shells littering the shore, but Google images have snail eggs looking a lot different than these alien globs. I did the right thing, and poked them with a stick, but they weren't talking.
What the heck are those things?
posted by Acacia to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wiki, in spectacularly un-encyclopedic language, may offer some insight:
In the past 5 years (counting backwards from 2006), this lake has been getting worse and worse. There are clean-up and other efforts to make the lake a better place, but when its drained for dam repairs it smells something like a mixture of dead rotting fish and other various pollutant smells.

Most of the pollutants that go into this lake and others around it come from the nearby golf course which uses large amounts of fertilizer to keep the grass green.
So perhaps it is a combination of regular swampy-like stuff (fungus, tree sap, etc.) you'd find at a lake, with pollution? To me, it seems like it's more sourced from the tree, than from the lake, although the two might be affecting one another due to pollution.

I'm not sure...but it's a good thing you didn't stick around to see what would happen. I think you maybe would have been eaten!
posted by metalheart at 11:46 PM on August 24, 2009

I wonder if they were fibrous roots with some kind of gunk caught round them? If the water level has recently dropped, the tree could perhaps have put roots out into the water when the water level was higher.
posted by Solomon at 12:11 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

looks like algae to me.
posted by Muirwylde at 12:32 AM on August 25, 2009

Hi. I study goop in streams for a living. I honestly can't tell from your pictures, but I'm thinking they might be salamander eggs. There appear to be individual blobs inside the goop in your close-up picture, which looks more like eggs than some sort of biofilm.

What I think metalheart was trying to suggest, is that they are simply a conglomeration of algae and bacteria stimulated by nutrient pollution, or eutrophication. Eutrophication is more likely to cause full lake algal blooms, though, rather than individual isolated blobs.

I don't know Washington vegetation that well, so it could also be some aspect of those plants that I just don't know a thing about. Maybe they have weird rhizomes?

If you pulled one of the masses out of the lake and got as good a close up as possible, that might help.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:53 AM on August 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

Actually, your Northwestern Salamander seems to prefer to attach their eggs to vegetation so I'm going with that.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:56 AM on August 25, 2009

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