Mysterious Orange Goo ID'ed As Eggs; Alaskan Village Still Worries

Aug 9, 2011

A mysterious orange goo that appeared on the shore of a small village in Alaska has been identified as "millions of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets," the AP reports. But researchers say they still don't know what the eggs might hatch, or if they are toxic.

The mass of eggs began appearing last week, surprising even longtime residents of the village of Kivalina. Discovery News, which spoke with a town official, describes the goo:

Found several miles inland in the fresh water Wulik River, the orange material turned gooey and gave off a gaseous odor. But scooped out of the ocean, the substance had no odor and "was light to the touch, with the feel of baby oil," relayed Janet Mitchell, City Administrator for Kivalina.

The AP reports that the village of Kivalina is "an Inupiat Eskimo community located at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef on Alaska's northwest coast. Residents live largely off the land, and many are worried about the effect on the local wildlife and plants from a substance never seen there before."

Orange-tinted water was reported in areas around Kivalina, as well. And reports that the cloud of eggs might have killed minnows brought new questions over whether the eggs might be toxic, or if the sheer volume of the eggs may have deprived the minnows of oxygen.

In Juneau, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Jeep Rice said Monday, "It was easy to see cellular structure surrounding the lipid droplet, and to identify this as 'animal.' We have determined these are small invertebrate eggs, although we cannot tell which species."

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