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article imageRock Snot Spreading Like a Real-Life Blob

By Martin Laine     Jun 3, 2010 in Environment
An algae that forms a gobby, gooey mess is acting like the central feature of the 1950s horror flick “The Blob,” slowly spreading around the world, choking the life out of many pristine waterways. Experts say there is no way to control or eradicate it
Its scientific name is Didymosphenia geminata, but it is more commonly called Rock Snot, because it starts by attaching to stones at the bottom of streambeds, and then blooms into a slimy, gelatinous glob that keeps growing, eventually covering the entire streambed several inches deep.
As a result, it smothers all the life at the bottom of a stream, depriving other aquatic life of their food source.
What make the story of Didymos, as they’re also known, all the more remarkable is that until the 1980s, this particular species was confined to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. From there, it spread south to the western United States. Today, it has been found as far east as Vermont, and as far south as Tennessee, in the United States.
But it hasn’t stopped there. It has been found in several northern European countries and in South America. It has even made its way to New Zealand, where it has damaged more than 50 streams, and where anyone knowingly spreading the algae can face five years in prison and be fined up to $100,000.
So how does a diatomic algae that attaches itself to rocks get from one place to another?
As Pogo would say, the enemy is us.
“We believe that fishermen, particularly fly fishermen who travel from one high-profile trout stream to another, transport didymo in the felt soles of their waders,” said Jonathan Knight of the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources in an article in the Cumberland Times-News.
Experts agree that the most likely carriers are humans and their gear – boats, boots, and fishing equipment.
Because there is no known way to get rid of it once it appears in a stream, many wildlife agencies have mounted a public information campaign to try to keep it from spreading. This includes cleaning off any algae that might be clinging to boats, clothes, and equipment before leaving an infected area. It also means soaking and scrubbing all equipment clean after each use.
In Maryland, officials would like to ban hip waders and felt-soled boots. A Japanese study indicated that the algae can live for a month in the felt soles of the waders.
Last year, the state put up several scrubbing stations in areas that were known to be infected. Ten more will be put up his year.
More about Algae bloom, Invasive species, Didymos
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