British Columbia

The Stanley Park blob is gone. But for how long?

Gelatinous bryozoan colonies that appeared in Stanley Park this summer dying off in the cold

CBC News

November 10, 2017

Colonies of the bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica appeared in Stanley Park over the summer. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

The year of the blob is over.

After mystifying visitors to Stanley Park all summer, the gooey, gelatinous colonies of tiny creatures known as bryozoans are dying off in Lost Lagoon.

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Just like the monster in the classic 1958 B-movie, The Blob, the fatal weakness for these little blobs is the cold.

"As the seasons change, as things get wetter and colder, those individual little animals that used to live on the outside are now dying off," Celina Starnes of the Stanley Park Ecology Society told CBC News.

Celina Starnes with the Stanley Park Ecological Society said there were several "blob monsters" in Lost Lagoon. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

The organisms, which go by the scientific name Pectinatella magnifica, form colonies of genetic clones and secrete a goo that binds them all together, sometimes attaching to a rock or branch. Some of the clones will be specialized for different purposes, like feeding.

The blobs are well camouflaged, but became particularly visible over the summer because of the low water levels in the lagoon.

Holding on for years

The working hypothesis for the park's ecologists is that the colonies thrive in hot, dry conditions, and the blobs that appeared this year were holdovers from a similar summer 12 years ago.

"It was dry for a prolonged period of time, it was very warm and the water levels were super low, so we have a feeling that those little tiny creatures were holding on and have held on since then," Starnes said.

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That's the less-than-scientific name for the slimy and surprisingly firm jelly creatures at the Lost Lagoon  1:22

She promises that the blob will return one day in the not-too-distant future.

"The bryozoan has this special trick where it creates these little eggs that'll go into the future generation, so they'll hide out in Lost Lagoon waiting for those right conditions to come back," Starnes said.

With files from Dan Burritt and Deborah Goble

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