Scientists Have Tentatively Identified Mysterious Orange Goo

Photo by Mida Swan

Federal scientists say they have tentatively identified the mysterious orange goo that showed up recently in a lagoon near Kivalina. It appears to be a concentration of microscopic eggs.

Photo by Mida Swan

Jeep Rice, research biologist at the Ted Stevens Marine Institute in Auke Bay, says their lab staff first tried to figure if it was plant, animal, or mineral. Several chemists were brought in because of concerns that it may be some kind of chemical pollution. But Rice says the chemists weren’t needed once they spotted the basic egg structure under a high powered microscope.

Since the eggs are so small and their internal features are very hard to distinguish, it’s unclear what laid the eggs. Rice suspects some sort of invertebrate, perhaps a crustacean. But Rice says it’s hard to tell for sure.

The orange color of the goo seems to come from a lipid oil droplet in the center of each egg. The eggs that were collected for sampling either dried up or died despite being refrigerated for transport.

Kivalina area residents were concerned earlier this month when the never-before-seen substance showed up. Rice says it’s possible the eggs just happened to concentrate in that lagoon because of wind or tidal action.

As for the eggs that remain near Kivalina, Rice would advise against eating them. They have not been tested for natural toxins.

Download Audio

Matt Miller is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

Previous articleGenetically-Modified Salmon Developer Fights Back
Next articleNew Program Will Ease Healthcare Access for Mexican-Americans in Alaska