Hurricane Irene resulted in evacuations, massive flooding, and nonstop news coverage. It also introduced a lot of people to an animal so ugly, they didn't even guess it was an animal.
The gray blobs, summed up accurately by one observer as "pretty disgusting looking,” were reported from New York to Virginia. They also caused a disgusting smell in some places, for example in New Jersey where thousands floated ashore and rotted.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science got so many calls that they finally issued a press release identifying the repulsive globs. While guesses ranged from tar balls to sewage to ambergris from whales, they really are animals: potato sponges.
The potato sponge normally lives attached to the sea floor where we can't see it (thank goodness), but is sometimes dislodged by large storms. Then they get clogged with debris and, no longer able to filter feed, starve to death and rot, causing the lovely odor complained of in some places.
The sponges, which can grow to the size of a soccer ball, are harmless aside from the aesthetic damage. However, because the glassy appendages they use to anchor themselves can irritate the skin, you're warned not to touch them - if you're crazy and strong-stomached enough to contemplate such a thing.
-Wombat (No Relation)
Sep 19, 2011
Posted by wombat at Monday, September 19, 2011