Orange goo made up of spores


Picture from an electron scanning microscope of Kivalina spore

Picture from an electron scanning microscope of Kivalina spore – Courtesy NOAA

Not eggs, after all.

Scientists have done a more detailed examination of that mysterious orange goo that showed up recently in a lagoon near Kivalina.

They are fungal spores.

Samples were sent down to the NOAA’s National Ocean Service Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, South Carolina. Doctor Steve Morton, a research oceanographer there, said they used an electron scanning micrograph to examine in greater detail the tiny orange balls that were seen in earlier pictures.

Close-up of spines on surface of spore

Close-up of spines on surface of spore – Courtesy NOAA

“It was just a very interesting, unusual event,” said Morton. “I’ve been during oceanographic work on red tides for 20 years now. This is the first one I’ve ever seen that’s caused by a fungal spore.”

Morton says the spores are consistent with a fungus that causes rust, or the discoloration that appears on plant leaves and stems. But it’s still unclear which of the 78-hundred types of rust fungi is the Kivalina goo.

Initial analysis by NOAA’s Ted Stevens Marine Institute at Auke Bay showed what appeared to be a concentration of microscopic eggs, possibly of an invertebrate like a copepod.

Photo taken from a microscope of the Kivalina goo that were believed to be eggs

Photo taken from a microscope of the Kivalina goo that were believed to be eggs – Courtesy NOAA