Green goo not from cosmic event (Update: Frog spawn)

What do you look for after Meteor Friday? Star jelly of course. And you find it. Green ‘Space’ Slime Baffles Nature Experts.

A “weird” green slime said in folklore to appear at the same time as meteors hit Earth has been found in a birdlife park in Somerset. The RSPB has appealed for help in identifying the slime, which is said to be scattered on grass banks close to pools and lakes around Ham Wall Nature Reserve near Glastonbury. The jelly-like substance could be bacteria, fungus or toad innards, wildlife experts said. Some believe it could be a substance that has been written about for centuries called star or astral jelly, which is said to appear in the wake of meteor showers.

Weird slime baffles RSPB There has never been a valid connection made between “star jelly”, or pwdr sêr, and meteor showers. But a connection has been made to fungus, frog spawn and polymers used for floral arrangements. Take a look at this agricultural polymer. (Tip: Richard Cornford) Also, see the Skeptoid entry on star jelly:

Perhaps the most important weak assumption about star jelly is its origin: having fallen from the sky. News reports almost always state the substance rained out of the sky, and indeed, most people talking to the reporters honestly believe that it did. Most of them are probably assuming it, but others have a firmer conviction. They saw the ground with no star jelly, then maybe regular rain fell or maybe nothing fell, and then they observed the star jelly. No other apparent explanation was possible, so the notion of its having fallen is often taken for granted as an observation. But the fact is that there is no testable, non-anecdotal evidence that any star jelly has ever fallen from the sky.

Though there are several possibilities, slime mold is most logical explanation for the pond-side slime. It looks gross but is not dangerous.

UPDATE: The Telegraph reports it’s been tested and is frog spawn. Wait, it’s SPRING over there?! Jealous.

Tony Whitehead, spokesperson for the RSPB , explained: “At this time of year amphibians are spawning. The spawn is held in a substance known as glycoprotein which is stored in the female’s body.

“If the animal is attacked by a predator – herons for instance are fond of the occasional frog – it will quite naturally drop its spawn and the associated glycoprotein. This is designed to swell on contact with water, which gives the gelatinous mass we are all familiar with in frog spawn. However, if it’s unfertilized, it is just the empty glycoprotein that is dropped – which on contact with moist ground will swell and give a clear slime like substance.

  4 comments for “Green goo not from cosmic event (Update: Frog spawn)

  1. Chris Howard
    February 19, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    I often have wondered if the star jelly mythology emerged around the same time as the movie The Blob?

  2. RDW
    February 19, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    A simple scientific chemical analysis of the substance would solve the mystery, but then the star jelly cult would be likely to call you snarky and claim there were a government cover-up.

  3. RayG
    February 19, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    “Baffled”… A sure sign that bad reporting is ahead.

  4. Richard Cornford
    February 19, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    Chris, have a look at the video on this page:-

    – it suggests that “The Blob” was inspired by a (very) large “star jelly” find in the USA (but does nothing to back up that assertion beyond observing the chronology).

    RDW, given that these gels are going to be mostly water (whatever their origin) would a chemical analysis really be that discriminating? For example, what difference in chemical make-up would you expect between an agricultural polymer and a (frog originating) Glycoprotein given that both appear to be made up from Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon and Nitrogen?

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