Thanks to the keen eyes of BRAT volunteer Jan Lambert of Claremont NH, we have a reported sighting of an alien jellyfish...no, wait, it's a Jello-coated soccer ball. Actually, Jan recognized the submerged gelatinous mass as a bryozoan -- sometimes called a "moss animal." Jan was paddling the Cove, where the Black River meets the Connecticut River in Springfield VT, recording her observations for our Visual Assessment project, when she spotted the unusual creature attached to a log beneath the water's surface.
Bryozoans, it turns out, are a collection of harmless
creatures in a colony-type formation, much like coral. Bryozoans have been around since the Early Ordovician Period, some 480 million years ago. While they can be a nuisance (growing on the hulls of ships and slowing them down, clogging public waterways, etc.), moss animals are generally an indicator of good water quality.
While the Black River Moss Animal was not photographed or captured, a quick internet search reveals many fascinating photos like the one above, to give you a good idea of what these things look like. So as you're swimming in lakes and streams and rivers, keep an eye open for the "brain from outer space"...more commonly known as the bryozoan. And let me know if you find any!