Beach blob mystery
solved at last
19:00 23 June 04
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe <http://www.newscientist.com/subscribe/subs_home.jsp?promcode=nsnews>
and get 4 free issues.
"An ocean without unnamed monsters," wrote John
Steinbeck, "would be like sleep without dreams." But the
dream that a new species of sea monster washed up in Chile in 2003
Marine biologists have definitively shown that the "Chilean
Blob" and other similar mysteries are simply the remains of
In July 2003, a 13-tonne blob of amorphous tissue rolled ashore in
Los Muermos, Chile. Local marine biologists could find no bones in
it, prompting speculation that it might be the body of a new
species of giant octopus.
Even the discovery of the unique dermal glands of the sperm whale
in the blob could not dampen this popular hope.
But Sidney Pierce of the University of Southern Florida in Tampa
and his colleagues have put the blob through further tests. As
they now report in /The Biological Bulletin/ (vol 206, p 125),
electron microscopy has revealed a network of tough collagen
fibres that are consistent with whale tissue. Also, although no
cells remain in the blob, fragments of its DNA match that of a
By putting preserved samples through similar tests, the
researchers have confirmed that the "giant octopus of St
Augustine" from 1896, the 1960 Tasmanian west coast monster,
two Bermuda blobs from the 1990s and the 1996 Nantucket blob are
also just the washed-up remains of whales.
Return to news story
© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.