British Columbia

'Oddest thing I've ever seen': Jelly creature befuddles Kelowna beachgoers

A Kelowna resident discovered a strange jelly-like bulb Monday evening on the north end of Okanagan Lake.

'They are weird and wonderful creatures. Very few people have heard of them,' says UBC Okanagan professor

Deb Marshall and a group of friends discovered this gelatinous mass on the north end of Okanagan Lake. (Deb Marshall)

It's translucent, a bit slimy and surprisingly firm for such a jelly-like substance. 

In short, "it's the oddest thing I've ever seen," says Deb Marshall, who discovered the gelatinous mass Monday evening on the north end of Okanagan Lake.

"I'm over here a lot at the beach and I've never seen anything like that."

Marshall was so perplexed that she pictured her finding and posted it in an Okanagan Valley fishing group on Facebook.

The guesses quickly piled in, ranging from befuddlement to humour.

"Maybe it's a toad's egg stack stuck to a weed?" one user wrote.

Another commenter wryly noted: "It looks like my wife's cooking."

Deb Marshall and a group of friends discovered the gelatinous mass on the north end of Okanagan Lake. (Deb Marshall)

'Weird and wonderful creatures'

It's actually a colony of Pectinatella magnifica, also known as the magnificent bryozoan, said Ian Walker, a biology professor at UBC Okanagan.

"They are weird and wonderful creatures. Very few people have heard of them," Walker said on CBC's Radio West

"The closest thing in terms of appearance would be a small sea anemone."

Like sea anemone, bryozoan have a mouth surrounded by a ring of tentacles that they use for feeding.

Unlike anemone, the bryozoan have a complete gut system with a separate mouth and anus.

What Marshall pictured was actually the creature's gelatinous secretion. The anemone-like creatures on the surface have all been abraded off.

A magnificent bryozoan with the organisms still attached. (Ian Walker)

Bryozoans are more common in the ocean. The one Marshall found is peculiar because it's so big and appeared in the freshwater Okanagan Lake, Walker said.

"Most of them are rather small and you'd have to specifically be looking for them."

It's the first discovery Walker has heard of in Okanagan Lake. It isn't clear whether the bryozoan are invasive to the lakes, he said. 

They're native to eastern North America and may have spread to the West Coast recently, he said.

"It's possible they were here naturally and just overlooked for years." 


With files from CBC's Radio West

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