Feature

Health scare of the week: The blob that ate the ocean

“Sea-mucus blobs” can stretch for more than 100 miles and their gooey mass teems with harmful viruses and bacteria.

The Blob was a bad science-fiction movie in which a mass of predatory goo from outer space ate everything in its path. Now marine scientists have found a proliferation of real life “blobs” in the ocean, which don’t eat people, but pose a threat to marine life and human swimmers nonetheless. The blobs, known as “sea-mucus blobs,” are clumps of living and dead organic matter that aggregate into vast, noxious, gooey masses called mucilage. The blobs are most common in the warm, stable waters of the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. Though occasional sightings of blobs date to the 18th century, a new study suggests that these mucilaginous masses are “exploding in number and size,” says National Geographic News, possibly as a result of the warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change. Some blobs stretch for more than 100 miles, often near coastlines and beaches, and can be teeming with harmful viruses and bacteria, including E. coli. The blobs can gum up the gills of fish or sink to the sea floor, smothering marine life. Swim-ming through mucilage can also give people a nasty rash, though you’re not likely to be tempted, says marine microbiologist Farooq Azam. “If you were not familiar with this—and especially if you were familiar—you wouldn’t want to go near it.”

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