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Giant, Mucus-Like Sea Blobs on the Rise, Pose Danger
National Geographic News ^ | 08 Sep 2009 | Christine Dell'Amore

Posted on 10/09/2009 7:36:14 AM PDT by BGHater

Beware of the blob—this time, it's for real.

As sea temperatures have risen in recent decades, enormous sheets of a mucus-like material have begun forming more often, oozing into new regions, and lasting longer, a new Mediterranean Sea study says (sea "mucus" blob pictures).

And the blobs may be more than just unpleasant.

Up to 124 miles (200 kilometers) long, the mucilages appear naturally, usually near Mediterranean coasts in summer. The season's warm weather makes seawater more stable, which facilitates the bonding of the organic matter that makes up the blobs (Mediterranean map).

Now, due to warmer temperatures, the mucilages are forming in winter too—and lasting for months.

Until now, the light-brown "mucus" was seen as mostly a nuisance, clogging fishing nets and covering swimmers with a sticky gel—newspapers from the 1800s show beach-goers holding their noses, according to study leader Roberto Danovaro, director of the marine science department at the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy.

But the new study found that Mediterranean mucilages harbor bacteria and viruses, including potentially deadly E. coli, Danovaro said. Those pathogens threaten human swimmers as well as fish and other sea creatures, according to the report, published September 16 in the journal PloS One.

(Watch video of the mucus-like sea blobs.)

Blobs Born of "Marine Snow"

A mucilage begins as "marine snow": clusters of mostly microscopic dead and living organic matter, including some life-forms visible to the naked eye—small crustaceans such as shrimp and copepods (copepod picture), for example.

Over time, the snow picks up other tiny hitchhikers, looking for a meal or safety in numbers, and may grow into a mucilage.

The blobs were first identified in 1729 in the Mediterranean, where they're most often seen. The sea's relative stillness and shallowness make the water column more stable, providing ideal conditions for mucilage formation.

For the new study, Danovaro and colleagues studied historical reports of mucilage in the Mediterranean from 1950 to 2008. Outbreaks, they discovered, were more likely when sea-surface temperatures were warmer than average.

Swimming Into "Mucus"

In 1991, Italian marine biologist Serena Fonda Umani swam alongside a mucilage—the mass is too dense to swim inside—in the Adriatic Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean (Adriatic Sea map).

She remembers diving about 50 feet (15 meters) down when she got the sensation of a ghost floating over her—"sort of an alien experience."

Umani, a co-author of the new study with Danovaro and Antonio Pusceddu, of the Polytechnic University of Marche, has also dived into marine snow—the mucilage's precursor.

She described it like swimming through a sugar solution. Out of the water, the dried "sugar" stiffened her hair and stuck to her wetsuit.

"The suit was impossible to wash totally, because it was covered by a layer of greenish slime," said Umani, of Italy's University of Trieste. "It was a nightmare."

Few people would purposely swim into a mucilage, said Farooq Azam, a marine microbiologist at the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

"If you were not familiar with this—and especially if you were familiar—you wouldn't want to go near it," said Azam, who was not involved in the new study.

A giant odiferous blob drifting offshore is "certainly not the seascape that one goes to the beach [for]," Azam added.

Public Health Hazard

Eager to see if the blobs' side effects extend beyond ruined wetsuits, Umani and colleagues sampled coastal waters and mucilage from the Adriatic in 2007. The warm, shallow sea is like a "big bathtub," Scripps's Azam said—an ideal natural laboratory for studying the blobs.

The study team discovered that the blobs are hot spots for viruses and bacteria, including the deadly E. coli. Coastal communities regularly test for E. coli, and its presence is enough to close beaches to swimming.

Study leader Donavaro said, "Now we see that … the release of pathogens from the mucilage can be potentially problematic" for human health.

(Related: "Beach Bacteria Warning: That Sand May Be Contaminated.")

People who swim through mucilage can also develop skin conditions such as dermatitis, he added.

Suffocated by Blobs

Fish and other marine animals that have no choice but to swim with mucilages are most vulnerable to their disease-carrying bacteria, which can kill even large fish, the study says.

The noxious masses can also trap animals, coating their gills and suffocating them, Danovaro said.

And the biggest blobs can sink to the bottom, acting like a huge blanket that smothers life on the seafloor.

Mucilages Going Global?

Mucilages aren't a concern for just the Mediterranean, Danovaro added. Recent studies tentatively suggest that mucus may be spreading throughout oceans from the North Sea (map) to Australia, perhaps because of rising temperatures, he said.

"It's a good example [of what will happen if] we don't do something to stop climate warming," Danovaro said. "There are consequences [if] we continue to deny the scientific evidence."

Beyond warm temperatures, it's still not exactly clear what drives the blobs' formation, Scripps' Azam pointed out. For instance, no one knows why the dead marine matter in the blobs doesn't decompose.

"It's important we do find out" what's driving the rise of the blobs, Azam said, "for the sake of the rest of the worlds' oceans."


Marine biologist Serena Fonda Umani approaches a blob of dead and living organic matter, called a mucilage, in the Adriatic Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean, in 1991.

As temperatures have risen in the Mediterranean in recent decades, mucilages have been forming more often and in more places, says a September 2009 study that also found harmful bacteria in the blobs.


TOPICS: Science; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: blob; catastrophe; catastrophism; mucus; ocean; science

1 posted on 10/09/2009 7:36:15 AM PDT by BGHater
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To: SunkenCiv

Lol, Catastrophe ping


2 posted on 10/09/2009 7:36:55 AM PDT by BGHater ("real price of every thing ... is the toil and trouble of acquiring it")
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To: BGHater

Giant boogers - as if I needed another reason to avoid the Riviera next year.


3 posted on 10/09/2009 7:37:37 AM PDT by skeeter (Pterocarya fraxinifolia)
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To: BGHater

If I respond truthfully, ill get banned..


4 posted on 10/09/2009 7:38:22 AM PDT by goseminoles
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To: BGHater
Quick, somebody call Barack!

Cheers!

5 posted on 10/09/2009 7:38:42 AM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: BGHater

Helen Thomas picture time?


6 posted on 10/09/2009 7:39:09 AM PDT by Buck W. (The President of the United States IS named Schickelgruber...)
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To: BGHater

“I like to call myself MOCOS. Mexican or Chicano or Something.” - Paul Rodriguez

(mocos is spanish for mucus)


7 posted on 10/09/2009 7:39:41 AM PDT by Cletus.D.Yokel (FreepMail me if you want on the Bourbon ping list!)
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To: BGHater

This thread needs an award!


8 posted on 10/09/2009 7:40:02 AM PDT by Dallas59 (No To O)
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To: BGHater
Giant, Mucus-Like Sea Blobs on the Rise, Pose Danger

Sure it wasn't Michael Moore or Rosie ODonnell enjoying a day at the beach?

9 posted on 10/09/2009 7:40:14 AM PDT by The Sons of Liberty (FUBO - When 0bama Fails, Freedom Prevails!)
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To: BGHater

Ok here goes.....

Lonely sperm whale perhaps??


10 posted on 10/09/2009 7:40:51 AM PDT by goseminoles
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To: BGHater

Something in God’s creation probably eats this stuff. Just wait.


11 posted on 10/09/2009 7:41:27 AM PDT by BenLurkin (Brave amateurs....they do their part.)
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To: BGHater

What is Escherichia coli?

Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses. Still other kinds of E. coli are used as markers for water contamination—so you might hear about E. coli being found in drinking water, which are not themselves harmful, but indicate the water is contaminated. It does get a bit confusing—even to microbiologists.


12 posted on 10/09/2009 7:42:10 AM PDT by PeterPrinciple ( Seeking the truth here folks.)
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To: BGHater

ONZ, that’s terrible! Gunk in the ocean, who’da thunkit?


13 posted on 10/09/2009 7:42:45 AM PDT by Tax-chick (There is no "I" in "Tejano conjunto." It's all about the mission.)
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To: The Sons of Liberty
Giant, Mucus-Like Sea Blobs on the Rise, Pose Danger

Sure it wasn't Michael Moore or Rosie ODonnell enjoying a day at the beach?

That's a terrible thing to say about giant, mucus-like sea blobs!

14 posted on 10/09/2009 7:43:29 AM PDT by GreenHornet
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To: BGHater

Blue whales hacking up loogies?


15 posted on 10/09/2009 7:43:29 AM PDT by wastedyears (If I don't have a right to play defense, then I'll go on offense. - FReeper Enterprise)
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To: BGHater

I’ll worry about them when they reach the Michigan state line. Then I’ll welcome our giant mucus like sea blob overlords.


16 posted on 10/09/2009 7:43:53 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Seniors, the new shovel ready project under socialized medicine.)
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To: goseminoles

don’t do it....I think I know where you are headed.


17 posted on 10/09/2009 7:46:53 AM PDT by gathersnomoss (General George Patton had it right.)
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To: Cletus.D.Yokel

I’d call it sea snot and get a bunch of 5 year olds out there in dive suits to eat it.

In mean, what else do 5 year olds eat except boogers?


18 posted on 10/09/2009 7:46:56 AM PDT by HanneyBean
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To: goseminoles

That’s it, go to your room. I didn’t know that whales had opposing thumbs.


19 posted on 10/09/2009 7:48:20 AM PDT by gathersnomoss (General George Patton had it right.)
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To: BGHater
It is actually European Culture and it's formally Christian Centricity dying and decaying and falling into the Sea....
20 posted on 10/09/2009 7:49:26 AM PDT by taildragger (Palin/Mulally 2012)
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To: BGHater

Looks like something I left in some tp this morning, only bigger.


21 posted on 10/09/2009 7:49:42 AM PDT by kickonly88 (I love fossil fuel!)
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To: BGHater

Perhaps a Nobel Prize would appease them.


22 posted on 10/09/2009 7:51:02 AM PDT by Interesting Times (For the truth about "swift boating" see ToSetTheRecordStraight.com)
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To: Interesting Times

I was thinking more on the lines of Dead Ted Kennedy and Algore!


23 posted on 10/09/2009 7:55:26 AM PDT by Never2baCrat
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To: BGHater

We’re all gonna DIE alert!!!


24 posted on 10/09/2009 8:02:27 AM PDT by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
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To: BGHater

Michael Moore..that you?


25 posted on 10/09/2009 8:02:33 AM PDT by beethovenfan (If Islam is the solution, the "problem" must be freedom.)
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To: BGHater

I wonder if the stuff could be used somehow, maybe as fuel or something. It is organic.


26 posted on 10/09/2009 8:03:46 AM PDT by giotto
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To: skeeter


Giant Booger receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
27 posted on 10/09/2009 8:09:14 AM PDT by rdax
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To: BGHater

Anybody got that picture of Teddy Kennedy in his bathing suit?


28 posted on 10/09/2009 8:10:32 AM PDT by popdonnelly (Yes, we disagree - no, we won't shut up - no, we won't quit.)
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To: rdax

Just atomized my coffee.


29 posted on 10/09/2009 8:14:01 AM PDT by skeeter (Pterocarya fraxinifolia)
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To: BGHater

Whale Snot!


30 posted on 10/09/2009 8:30:18 AM PDT by US Navy Vet
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To: BGHater; 75thOVI; aimhigh; Alice in Wonderland; AndrewC; aragorn; aristotleman; Avoiding_Sulla; ...
Thanks BGHater. We'll need some tissues here!
 
Catastrophism
 
· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic · subscribe ·
 

31 posted on 10/09/2009 2:37:51 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__Since Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: BGHater

Eventually, these blobs drag themselves on shore, take on a more solid form, and start making “documentary films” like “Bowling for Columbine”, or “Fahrenheit 911”.


32 posted on 10/09/2009 2:40:48 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: BGHater

Mother Earth: “I hab a code”.


33 posted on 10/09/2009 3:00:21 PM PDT by LiberConservative ("Sarah Palin irritates all the right people." -Dennis Miller)
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To: SunkenCiv

You’re going to need more than a tissue for boogers that size.


34 posted on 10/09/2009 3:31:37 PM PDT by fanfan (Why did they bury Barry's past?)
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To: BGHater
At the risk of receiving a Nobel Prize of some sort I will nevertheless suggest we experiment by banning europeans from swimming in the Mediterranean. I suspect these mucilages will quickly disappear (No - I cannot be banned - I am now a Nobel candidate ;-).

Please do put me on the Giant, Mucus-Like Sea Blobs Ping List. ;-)


I will say this article is useless. "A blob of dead and living organic matter"? Could we address the living part? What is it? Animal, vegetable or mineral? What happens to it if sprayed with DDT? Roundup?
35 posted on 10/09/2009 4:18:59 PM PDT by Tunehead54 (Nothing funny here ;-)
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To: goseminoles
Lonely sperm whale perhaps??

Blind, furry finned whale's fault...

36 posted on 10/09/2009 4:22:08 PM PDT by IrishPennant (Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.)
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To: IrishPennant

Nothing like a fresh swin in the morning to carry you over the whole day!

37 posted on 10/09/2009 5:20:34 PM PDT by Cvengr (Adversity in life and death is inevitable. Thru faith in Christ, stress is optional.)
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To: Cvengr

Ewwwwwwwwwww...


38 posted on 10/09/2009 5:56:45 PM PDT by IrishPennant (Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.)
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To: BGHater

Must have been from a blowfish...


39 posted on 10/11/2009 5:36:59 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__Since Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: Cvengr

Must have been from a blowfish.


40 posted on 10/11/2009 5:37:17 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__Since Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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