Print page

Slime “mystery” solved

19 February 2013

Tony Whitehead
Public Affairs Officer

Following yesterday’s appeal for information about a strange jelly like substance that has appeared at its Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset the RSPB has received a number of theories about its origin.

Tony Whitehead, spokesperson for the RSPB in the south west said; “We’ve been delighted by the number of people that have contacted us about the mystery slime.

Many pointed out the sighting of a strange meteor like object over the reserve last week [Note 1] captured on film by a local wildlife photographer. However, the majority of people suggested more earthly origins. Some identified it as a slime mould, but by far the commonest was that its appearance was related to amphibian activity.”

The RSPB was contacted by Peter Green a Devonshire vet who works with wildlife, who gave a particularly logical and simple explanation following his own researches.

Tony Whitehead explains: “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.”

“While this is our favoured explanation for this appearance of slime, it’s also worth remembering that other things can give a similar appearance. Certain slime moulds can. So can the wonderfully named crystal brain fungus, but this only appears on wood. And as mentioned yesterday, certain algae, and blue-green algae can also appear as a clear slime”