Weird Swamp Stuff
Aliens in the Swamp!
by Emma Reid
Just kidding… there are no aliens, but we are going to start off the first blog about weird swamp stuff with something extra weird… and cool! After the water levels recede in the swamp you may see these gooey globs that you may think look like an alien pod or maybe a jelly-like mass of fish eggs. Think not! These are called Bryozoan Colonies (Pectinatella Magnifica), which essentially means “moss animals.” They are microscopic aquatic invertebrates that live in colonies and can actually be found in many different freshwater ecosystems around the world. The colonies of microscopic zooids take on weird jelly shapes and are usually attached to a submerged structure such as a rock or submerged branch. If you were to touch them they would feel like a washed up jellyfish, but you could easily tear them apart. It would feel very strange.
The way they act is super weird. Each tiny individual bryozoan (zooid) is attached to a surface at its base. Its body has an outer sleevelike structure (cystid) and a mass of organs (polypide) that moves within it. An opening at the top of the cystid permits the polypide to slide outward toward the water, exposing a headlike structure (lophophore) crowned with tentacles, which filter food from water to sustain their growth in late summer to early fall. At the slightest disturbance, the polypide and tentacles retract instantly.