- The strange orange substance that started to wash up on the shores of Kivalina, Alaska, earlier this month is actually spores from a rust fungus. (Photo: Associated Press)
No wonder 69 percent of Americans are distrustful of scientists! If they can't even get something as easy as animal vs. fungus right, how can we take them at their word that the earth's climate is changing? I demand an inquiry!
Sorry... just a little upset about having to retract an earlier blog post about the mysterious orange goo turning up in the waters of Kivalina, Alaska. Scientists from NOAA put the stuff under a slide and saw eggs from an unknown crustacean with mango-colored lipid centers. But that preliminary analysis turned out to be wrong. It's spores from a fungus, according to the NOAA’s National Ocean Service Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research (phew):
[A] team of scientists highly-specialized and equipped to analyze microbiologic phenomena such as this determined that the substance is consistent with spores from a fungi that cause rust, a disease that infects only plants causing a rust-like appearance on leaves and stems. Rust fungi reproduce to infect other plants by releasing spores which disperse often times great distances by wind and water. However, whether this spore belongs to one of the 7,800 known species of rust fungi has not yet been determined.
So rather than a tasty snack that would go well on an ivory spoon with a vodka chaser, this orange crud is likely an agricultural disease that looks like small pox on leaves or droopy, gelatinous sea anemones. However, a NOAA scientist cautioned that rust fungus was only "the best identification" the agency could make at this point, given that many fungal spores of the Alaskan tundra were still unclassified.
Whatever. If the scientists had stuck some of the goo in their mouths and swished it around, as I initially suggested, this whole confusion could have been avoided. Read the full NOAA release on the rust here (PDF).