Canadians have begun finding strange, jelly-like blob creatures in a Vancouver park, and nobody is quite sure why.
The brain-shaped beings are called Bryozoans, and they’re actually made up of hundreds of tiny separate creatures clustered together. Zooids, tiny hermaphroditic organisms less than a millimeter in size, clump up in bundles to form the alarming larger blobs.
Recently, they’ve been spotted for the first recorded time in Stanley Park in Vancouver, according to National Geographic, where a lake called “the Lost Lagoon” has experienced falling water levels.
Now locals are trying to figure out why.
Climate change could be the culprit. In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service theorized that, since the animals can spread only in waters warmer than 60 degrees, climate change might be forcing them north.
If that’s the case, they could be dangerous for local wildlife by unbalancing the watery ecosystem.
But they may have been there in the past and escaped detection in the once-deeper waters, thanks to their muddy coloring. "We doubt this is the first time they've been here," Celina Starnes of the Stanley Park Ecology Society told National Geographic.
Bryozoans form vital parts of ecosystems around the world and are represented by 5,000 different species of organisms.
Several times that number of fossil species exist, with evidence of some marine species living 470 million years ago.
But they can be a nuisance too. More than 125 species of the creatures have been found to grow on the underside of ships, which can reduce the vessels’ mobility. They can also clog pipes and foul up shoresides.
Some of the chemicals they produce can even be used in medicine. One compound produced by a marine bryozoan, bryostatin 1, is under trial for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.