Nature: Mysterious jelly ‘blobs’ off the coast of Norway may be filled with tiny squid eggs and slime

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Bizarre three-meter-wide blobs of jelly have been sighted off the Norwegian coast – and they contain tiny squid eggs in a bubble of slime, a study finds.

Researchers found that each of the blobs can contain hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs, each of which can grow into an embryonic squid.

Since the mid-1980s, 90 blob sightings have been recorded in both Norway and the Mediterranean, but only recently have they been sampled.

The egg sacs belong to the common squid Illex coindetii, the team said, which is found on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

Bizarre three-meter-wide blobs of jelly have been sighted off the Norwegian coast - and they contain tiny squid eggs in a bubble of slime, a study finds.  Pictured: One of the blobs

Bizarre three-meter-wide blobs of jelly have been sighted off the Norwegian coast – and they contain tiny squid eggs in a bubble of slime, a study finds. Pictured: One of the blobs

Researchers found that each of the blobs can contain hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs (see photo), each of which can grow into an embryonic squid.

Researchers found that each of the blobs can contain hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs (see photo), each of which can grow into an embryonic squid.

Researchers found that each of the blobs can contain hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs, each of which can grow into an embryonic squid (photo)

Researchers found that each of the blobs can contain hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs, each of which can grow into an embryonic squid (photo)

Researchers found that each of the blobs can contain hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs (left), each of which can grow into an embryonic squid (right)

The egg sacs belong to the common squid Illex coindetii, the team said, which is found on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.  Pictured: a preserved adult I. coindetii

The egg sacs belong to the common squid Illex coindetii, the team said, which is found on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.  Pictured: a preserved adult I. coindetii

The egg sacs belong to the common squid Illex coindetii, the team said, which is found on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. Pictured: a preserved adult I. coindetii

SQUID EI SACS

Although scientists have known about I. coindetii for nearly two centuries, sighting their egg sacs is still rare.

When females of the species reproduce, they produce giant, floating egg sacs made of mucus.

These help keep the eggs (and later embryos) safe and protect them from predators as they develop.

Some contain dark streaks that can act as a defense mechanism, making the blobs appear to contain a large fish that could scare off potential predators.

When female I. coindetii reproduce, they produce giant, floating egg sacs from their own mucus, which help keep the eggs (and later embryos) safe and protected from predators as they develop.

The masses, slowly disintegrating over time, float halfway between the seabed and the surface – and more than half have dark streaks.

Although scientists have known about I. coindetii for nearly two centuries, sightings of the egg sacs are still rare.

It wasn’t until 2019 that a team of divers, acting as citizen scientists, was able to collect tissue samples from four blobs to return to the lab for DNA analysis – and finally confirm what the strange mass really was.

The divers collected the samples in small plastic bottles and kept them in their refrigerator at home until they could show them to the researchers.

“We also got to see what’s inside the actual sphere, showing squid embryos at four different stages,” said paper author and marine zoologist Halldis Ringvold of Sea Snack Norway. Live Science

“Plus, we were able to monitor how the sphere actually changes consistency – from solid and transparent to tearing and opaque – as the embryos develop.”

Although only samples were collected from four of the masses, the fact that all the blobs recorded appear to be of similar shape and size suggests that many of them were deposited by the same squid species.

According to the researchers, the divers’ sampling of the blobs did not appear to noticeably damage the egg sacs.

The masses, slowly disintegrating over time, float halfway between the seabed and the surface - and more than half have dark streaks, as shown

The masses, slowly disintegrating over time, float halfway between the seabed and the surface - and more than half have dark streaks, as shown

The masses, slowly disintegrating over time, float halfway between the seabed and the surface – and more than half have dark streaks, as shown

When female I. coindetii reproduce, they produce giant, floating egg sacs from their own mucus, which help keep the eggs (and later embryos) safe and protected from predators.

When female I. coindetii reproduce, they produce giant, floating egg sacs from their own mucus, which help keep the eggs (and later embryos) safe and protected from predators.

When female I. coindetii reproduce, they produce giant, floating egg sacs from their own mucus, which help keep the eggs (and later embryos) safe and protected from predators.

Although scientists have known about I. coindetii for nearly two centuries, sightings of the egg sacs are still rare.  It wasn't until 2019 that a team of divers, acting as citizen scientists, was able to collect tissue samples from four blobs to return to the lab for DNA analysis - and finally confirm what the strange mass really was.

Although scientists have known about I. coindetii for nearly two centuries, sightings of the egg sacs are still rare.  It wasn't until 2019 that a team of divers, acting as citizen scientists, was able to collect tissue samples from four blobs to return to the lab for DNA analysis - and finally confirm what the strange mass really was.

Although scientists have known about I. coindetii for nearly two centuries, sightings of the egg sacs are still rare. It wasn’t until 2019 that a team of divers, acting as citizen scientists, was able to collect tissue samples from four blobs to return to the lab for DNA analysis – and finally confirm what the strange mass really was.

The divers collected the samples in small plastic bottles and kept them in refrigerators until they could show them to the team.  Pictured: an egg bag in the Mediterranean

The divers collected the samples in small plastic bottles and kept them in refrigerators until they could show them to the team.  Pictured: an egg bag in the Mediterranean

The divers collected the samples in small plastic bottles and kept them in refrigerators until they could show them to the team. Pictured: an egg bag in the Mediterranean

According to the researchers, the dark streak seen in many of the blobs could be ink released by the mother squid when the eggs were fertilized.

“Spheres with or without ink can be the result of spheres that are in different maturity stages, where spheres of ink are just hatching,” the team wrote in their paper.

“After a while, as embryos start to develop, the whole sphere, including the streak, will disintegrate.”

An alternate hypothesis, the team added, suggests the stripes could serve as a defense mechanism – making it look like the blobs contained a large fish that could scare off potential predators.

The full findings of the study have been published in the journal Scientific reports

Although only samples were collected from four of the masses, the fact that all the blobs recorded appear to be of similar shape and size suggests that many of them were deposited by the same squid species.

Although only samples were collected from four of the masses, the fact that all the blobs recorded appear to be of similar shape and size suggests that many of them were deposited by the same squid species.

Although only samples were collected from four of the masses, the fact that all the blobs recorded appear to be of similar shape and size suggests that many of them were deposited by the same squid species.

Since the mid-1980s, 90 blob sightings have been recorded, both in Norway and the Mediterranean (as shown), but only recently have they been sampled

Since the mid-1980s, 90 blob sightings have been recorded, both in Norway and the Mediterranean (as shown), but only recently have they been sampled

Since the mid-1980s, 90 blob sightings have been recorded, both in Norway and the Mediterranean (as shown), but only recently have they been sampled

WHAT WILL CLIMATE CHANGE DO TO OUR OCEANS?

According to the National Ocean Service, climate change will contribute to ocean acidification.

This change can be attributed to higher levels of greenhouse gases due to human activities.

Climate change affects the ocean in different ways.

A new study has found that methane flares in a region off the coast of Norway are not caused by climate change as previously believed.  However, scientists warn that the human-caused effects of climate change still persist (photo file)

A new study has found that methane flares in a region off the coast of Norway are not caused by climate change as previously believed.  However, scientists warn that the human-caused effects of climate change still persist (photo file)

A new study has found that methane flares in a region off the coast of Norway are not caused by climate change as previously believed. However, scientists warn that the human-caused effects of climate change still persist (photo file)

It can cause sea levels to rise and choke coral in the sea.

According to the National Ocean Service, climate change can also affect ocean currents and cause “cloudy” water conditions with reduced amounts of light.

The organization has provided the following tips to reduce the amount of damage to the oceans:

  • Eat sustainable seafood.
  • Do not throw household chemicals into drains.
  • Drive as little as possible.
  • To recycle.
  • Print less.
  • Help with cleaning up the beach.