A few days ago, we wrote about a mysterious black blob floating off of Alaska's coast. At that point, experts hadn't been able to identify what the goo was made of. New information, however, brings an end to the speculation: Authorities say it's a gigantic algae bloom, as some commenters to DISCOVER's previous post hypothesized. TIME reports:
Algal outbreaks can and do occur even in icy Arctic waters. It just takes the right combination of nutrients, light and water temperature, says [Brenda Konar, a marine biology professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks]. "Algae blooms," she says. "It's sort of like a swimming pool that hasn't been cleaned in a while." The blob, Konar says, is a microalgae made up of "billions and billions of individuals." "We've observed large blooms in the past off Barrow, although none of them at all like this," Barry Sherr, an Oregon State University professor of oceanography, said in an e-mail. "The fact that the locals say they've never seen anything like it suggests that it might represent some exotic species which has drifted into the region, perhaps as a result of global change. For the moment, that's just a guess."
The blob isn't toxic--just gross. No word from the Venter/ExxonMobil camp on whether they intend to scoop up the blob for research purposes. Related Content: Discoblog: Experts Baffled by Unidentified Black Goo Floating in Arctic Ocean Discoblog: The Obama Plant: New Lichen Species Named After President Discoblog: Hey, There’s Algae in My Oil! Image: Courtesy of the North Slope Borough Planning Department