09/04/17 AT 6:56 AM
The creature found in Vancouver is actually a colony of organisms clumped together Photo: Vancouver Courier via YouTube
The recent discovery of a big brain-like clump, found by a team of ecologists and nature enthusiasts in Vancouver, Canada, has raised a lot of questions about its origin.
The discovery made by the group, the Stanley Park Ecological Society, was reported in the Vancouver Courier, a local daily. After an article was published by the National Geographic on Aug. 31, the word spread about the ‘mysterious brain-like blob found in a lagoon.’ According to the researchers, these jelly-like creatures are called “bryozoan.” The team discovered these extremely elusive creatures in the translucent waters of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Kathleen Stormont, whose group recorded the bryozoan sighting two weeks ago, said at the time their colonies are “kind of like three-day-old Jello,” with a firm but gelatinous texture. The Stanley Park Ecology Society found out that these translucent lumps were actually clusters of a very tiny organism called the Pectinatella Magnifica. Upon further inspection, the team found the pond was brimming with these slimy, snot like organisms which group together to form one giant booger ball.
Pectinatella Magnifica are members of the phylum Bryozoa that dates back roughly 500 million years. The tiny Pectinella Magnifica reproduce asexually, and they form clones of themselves. The process keeps repeating until there are enough of them to make an entire colony.
A single Bryzoan organism is known as a zooid. What is amazing about these zooids is that they can survive as part of a clump or drift away separately to start their asexual cloning to form their own gooey lump. These creatures are very fascinating because their grouping together is done out of mutual need.
The fossils found of the creature date back 470 million years, making it a prehistoric creature that has not undergone any evolutionary change over time. The species found in Stanley Park is commonly called a “magnificent” bryozoan. What is surprising is the extent to which this creature has spread. Reports state that they were initially found exclusively in the Mississippi River and surrounding areas.
Their diet consists of nutrient rich algae which they graze on all day long. They have a tentacle that extends out of the cluster. Imagine tiny fingers clawing at water trying to catch some food, which is exactly how their feeding process looks like under a microscope.
Their numbers could have a direct impact on any ecosystem they are a part of. Their diet makes it necessary for humans to control population in areas where there is a sudden boom, or they could leave other animals without food. The feeding process is very similar to that of a blue whale.
The zooids create a small brain like cluster. They can live in this cluster or break off and live on their own, forming clones and eventually clusters. Each zooid has a mouth, digestive tract, muscles, and nerve center. They work together to send out thin, hair-like tentacles out into the water and capture plankton and organic material to dine on. “They’re a colony of tiny organisms that like to hang out together,” Stormon told the Vancouver Courier. “They have a very ancient lineage that hasn’t changed for hundred of thousands of years.”
The grouping together of these small organisms makes evolutionary sense. They become bigger in size and are more likely to survive an attack. In groups, they can hunt more food. Each colony is made up of tiny animals that are genetic clones of each other, and secrete a paste that binds them together, sometimes around a branch or rock making them consummate survivors.