Friday, February 06, 2009

But what flavour is it?

Here's an oddity for you ... strange jelly (or jello for my non-UK chums) appearing on the moors of Scotland.

Lumps of the stuff have been found all over the place and no one seems to quite know what it is or where it comes from. The BBC asked Hans Sluiman, an algae expert at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, what it was and he said that he was convinced the gel itself is not a plant or an animal. Meanwhile, Dr Andy Taylor who studies fungi at the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen, says that there are fungus filaments in the slime but agrees with Hans that they're growing in the gloop rather than creating it. Weird eh?

Andy's team at the Macaulay Institute ran DNA tests on a sample, but the results were inconclusive - the sample was contaminated. So what is it?

Hans Sluiman's academic colleagues unearthed a 1926 reference in the journal Nature to 'the rot of the stars'. It backs the theory that birds of some species are eating frogs or toads and regurgitating the jelly, perhaps due to toxins. Certainly, people claim to have seen herons regurgitating frogspawn. On a similar theme, another theory says that if a predator eats a female frog or toad that is ready to lay, the jelly which would have formed the outside of the spawn is discarded as it is not nutritious.

The more bizarre theories talk of 'star snot' or 'Star Jelly' (in Scots Gaelic 'Pwdre Ser') which some geological magazines suggest might be the remnants from a meteorite shower. If silica falls to Earth in dry form and absorbs water from the ground, it could form a kind of jelly, scientists say.

More detailed analysis is due later this month. Meanwhile, the BBC website has been receiving hundreds of comments from all over the world with 'star jelly' sightings. Maybe it is an invasion after all ...

Source: BBC Scotland


Debby said...

Which means that perhaps you need flashing road signs to warn people.

Sarah said...

Whatever it is I am glad I didn't stumble upon it on a walk as it would bother me. It looks revolting. I hope there is an explanation soon as I am most curious now.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby and Sarah - I will post an update if one becomes available. I favour the frogspawn theory myself. Or Goblin snot.