Rob Coleman's picture

Weird Slime

Observed: 29th November 2008 By: Rob Coleman
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Description:

I've found this a few times in the last year or two. Its a strange colourless and odourless jelly. Often in wet places, but also on fenceposts and the like...see more below

Identifications
Species interactions

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Comments

Rob Coleman's picture

This photo dates from

This photo dates from November last year, but I found a lot of this in spring in Mid-Wales (on raised bog) and again a couple of weeks ago in North Wales (same habitat). The Norfolk record was from a wet meadow.

In march in mid-Wales this was very common - there was also loads of frogspawn around leading me to think this has some connection with amphibians. It looks just like the jelly part of the spawn - some even had (what looked like) the embryonic discs present.

However, as well as being found on the ground, this was also on fence posts (as in the picture) - how did it get there?

Finding it in October/November also undermines the frogspawn theory.

Another explanation is this is Nostoc - a type of cyanobacteria. This was once thought to have fallen from space and is known in Welsh as pwdre ser - or 'rot of the stars', see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostoc

Has anyone else seen any?

Rob Coleman

Jonathan's picture

Yes, I think I have. Just

Yes, I think I have. Just uploaded a picture I took awhile back in Derbyshire at http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/10098

Its not identical to yours (greener and less globular), but similar.

I have seen the same thing elsewhere, growing on bare soil. These bacteria are photosynthetic (chloroplasts come from this group of bacteria) and N-fixing, so perhaps that is how they can grow in unlikely places such as fence posts, so long as they are wet.

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

gardener's picture

I've come across something

I've come across something similar on dead wood, though I'm not sure its exactly the same.

What I found is a fungus - Crystal brain, Exidia nucleata, and there's a link below to photo's of it for comparison with yours:
http://www.irishlichens.ie/pages-fungi/f-14.html

Jonathan's picture

Aha! Exidia nucleata on your

Aha! Exidia nucleata on your website is colourless, just like Rob's 'Nostoc' and unlike mine. Perhaps what he has is Exidia after all. Rob, what do you think?

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Rob Coleman's picture

Exidia certainly looks much

Exidia certainly looks much more like my stuff - which is always translucent - white, but I don't think its that either. I believe Exidia grows on dead wood - much of my stuff was on the ground.

I've just found out this was picked up by the Times recently - see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6840730.ece , following on from an earlier BBC Scotland report http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/outdoors/articles/jelly/

DNA tests apparently inconclusive!

It would be interesting to see if any other iSpotters have found this!

Rob Coleman

Jonathan's picture

I have read the article in

I have read the article in Times online. How strange there is no DNA. This does rule out all kinds of things, but its got to be made of something and by something. I suppose its a polysaccharide of some sort (think mucus). We need a chemist to analyse some.

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

miked's picture

I have found this kind of

I have found this kind of stuff on quite a few occasions and never been able to decide what it is and no I don't think its a fungus. It reminds me rather of wallpaper paste which might be a clue as a number of similar materials have been tried for e.g. germinated seed planting, compost or other instances where something needs to be kept moist for a certain length of time. Is there a type of cellulose or similar material that is produced either biologically or perhaps from passing aeroplanes that rapidly swells up to produce this jelly once it becomes moist.

Martin Harvey's picture

more on slime

I asked Malcolm Storey (who runs http://www.bioimages.org.uk) about this, and his comments were:

"There are several possible sources of slime. The BBC report showed some that were obviously fungal and isn't helping by looking for a single answer to a question that encompasses a range of 'slime types'.

"Heron vomited frogspawn usually has visible eggs in it, but maybe this early in the season it doesn't – fraid I don't know the frog's egg development sequence (although would have expected the slime to form last.)

"Nostoc is usually coloured and more rubbery than slimy, tho can get slimy if very wet.

"Myxomycetes are usually more runny (like Yoghurt) – they don't have the stickiness of slime.

"Jelly Fungi – there are several species, some of which are white/colourless and others fade with age or the colour washes out. Usually on wood, but can fall off.

"Jonathon's find at:
http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/10098

is an alga, probably Gloeocystis:
http://www.bioimages.org.uk/html/p1/p10085.php

Have often slipped on this – surprised it hasn't found its way into Health and Safety assessments!

"Have no idea of the other animal or bird effluvia that could conceivably cause similar phenomena."

[Neither Malcolm nor I can find any original reference for the idea that National Geographic scientists have been unable to find DNA in the slime they looked at, nor any description of the type of slime they looked at, so we're slightly suspicious of this in a Times article that appears to revel in the idea that scientists don't yet know everything about everything!]

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Jonathan's picture

The report on BBC Scotland

The report on BBC Scotland interviews scientists at 2 institutions about it http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7754870.stm

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Rob Coleman's picture

I think there must be a

I think there must be a habitat factor involved here - I've always seen this in wet places. That said, it also appears atop fenceposts on more than one occasion!

It would be nice to get further with the cause of this. Exidia can be ruled out - I found some today - see http://ispot.org.uk/node/10205

Rob Coleman

teacher's picture

is it powdre ser?

I have found similar samples from time to time. Are they found on fence posts because they are coughed up by ravens or herons? Finding a dead frog beside some of this jelly has convinced me; see here http://thisteacherslife.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/star-jelly-on-the-willo...

Jonathan's picture

Who knows? I think we need

Who knows? I think we need some chemical analysis of the stuff (although it must be 99% water).

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

teacher's picture

under the microscope

another debate over hear...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunshinesoon/4300897687/

and a nice picture of it under the microscope by rjcobain

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjcobain/4083989024/

Jonathan's picture

THe micro photo is especially

THe micro photo is especially interesting, because the cellular structure at least suggests that this is a living (or once-living) thing.

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Rob Coleman's picture

Clearly, one of the problems

Clearly, one of the problems with this is that there are a number of things that produce similar looking slime. I'm pretty confident I can differentiate true 'Noctoc', the slime moulds and Exidia fungi - but this still leaves the wierd slime that lacks any explanation! (and apparently contains no DNA!)

Rob Coleman

Blewit Boy's picture

I would say if this organism............

I would say if this organism is growing on dead wood, then it's likely to be Exidia sp. I found lots last winter.

http://ispot.org.uk/node/15892?nav=users_observations

chris

Jonathan's picture

There was a programme about

There was a programme about star jelly on Radio 4 yesterday http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/hl8n6/

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

foxy's picture

Any fresh ideas ?

Just wondering after finding some more of this last week if there have been any answers found to its origins . What I found was exactly as photos above , felt and looked like wallpaper paste as suggested above .It was in a tightly grazed but very wet meadow no lIvestock since early October.Frogs are about but this did not feel slippery enough for spawn .

Foxy

Jonathan's picture

Frog remains seems the

Frog remains seems the likeliest explanation for this particular example (other jellies are available!). The conclusive evidence was an observation showing a dead frog next to such jelly.

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Jonathan's picture

Frog remains seems the

Frog remains seems the likeliest explanation for this particular example (other jellies are available!). The conclusive evidence was an observation showing a dead frog next to such jelly.

Here is the news story that brought it all together: http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/101544

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Roger Gilbert's picture

On 31st January I came across a patch of Star Jelly ...

and just 60 yards away a dead frog with an identical jelly exuding from wounds which I suspect were caused by a Heron.

http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/314277?nav=users_observations

Howardian Local Nature Reserve
http://www.howardianlnr.org.uk

Jonathan's picture

How interesting. Thanks.

How interesting. Thanks.

Jonathan
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

nightfly's picture

Hi Rob, Thanks for linking

Hi Rob,

Thanks for linking me to this one. To me your jelly above has all the hall marks of the frog jelly which Ive encountered many times. I was thinking about it today(dangerous I know, I should be more careful really!!)

I attempted to create some star jelly in this one here(http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/317681?nav=related) by placing the eviscerated parts of a dead female frog into water(especially the oviduct which might well be the jelly production organ) but it didnt work- the frogspawn developed as it should from the ova held in the ovisacs, that is the jelly was already coating the ova. Was the oviduct exhausted of jelly in this one as it was already on the ova???

This is where the dangerous imagination comes into play! As other good examples of jelly linked to oviducts exist, as I observed the previous day(http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/317493), see pics 288 and 375, maybe in this case the jelly making capabilities of the oviduct hadnt been exhausted yet when this frog met its doom, because large blobs NOT coated around ova were formed here.

I could well be making far too many assumptions here but I am trying to suggest a thoery for how in some cases large masses of jelly are produced and in others only proper spawn results.

Cathal.

Roger Gilbert's picture

Hope this helps ..

Jelly and a dead frog oozing same from wounds presumably caused by a Heron.
http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/314277?nav=users_observations

Howardian Local Nature Reserve
http://www.howardianlnr.org.uk