About a month ago while kayaking along the edge of Hammond Lake Erin and I noticed something floating in the water. It was a huge brownish-green gelatinous mass. It. was. weird.
I know I had seen them before but this one seemed bigger than others I had encountered; and even more interesting is that it was not the only one. While kayaking the perimeter of the lake we saw at least three of them and I'm sure there were many more because we weren't exactly looking for them (I'm always watching birds!).
We began to wonder...what is it? Is it native or exotic? Is it invasive?
I was able to get to the bottom of it pretty quickly by doing an internet search for "brownish-green gelatinous mass in a lake." The Lake Stewards of Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program says it better than I could so I'll share what their website has to say about this weird community of creatures called bryozoans:
"Bryozoans are tiny colonial invertebrate animals belonging to the
phylum ‘bryozoa’, and are also known as “moss animals”. There are 20
freshwater species worldwide. A bryozoan colony, consisting of
individuals called zooids, may resemble a brain-like gelatinous mass and
be as big as a football, and can usually be found in shallow, protected
areas of lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, and is often attached to
things like a mooring line, a stick, or a dock post, etc. Zooids feed by filtering tiny algae, protozoa, photosynthetic
bacteria, small nematodes, and microscopic crustaceans from the water.
Tentacles help capture prey and create currents that draw food toward
the mouth. Bryozoans are simultaneous hermaphrodites, with individual
zooids functioning first as males and then as females. Colonies contain
zooids in both male and female stages. Sperm from male zooids exit
into the water through pores in the tips of some of the tentacles, and
then are captured by the feeding currents of egg-producing female
zooids. Bryozoans are usually an indicator of good water quality, and should not be disturbed or removed from the water." (https://www.lakestewardsofmaine.org/programs/other-programs/bryozoans/)
So, if you come across a brownish-green gelatinous mass now you know that they are good to have in our lakes for the water filtering services they provide. As I seek to live into community with all that has life, now that I've taken the time to get to know it, I'm thankful for bryozoans.
Finding God, self, and community in wild spaces. The better we know our wild neighbors the more we'll discover ourselves.
A vision informed by Henry David Thoreau’s interpretation of sauntering, Jesus’ understanding of neighbor, Aldo Leopold’s concept of thinking like a mountain, Rachel Carson’s prophetic voice and John Muir’s way of capturing the beauty and uniqueness of wild neighbors with words.