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A Simple Protist?

October 9, 2009

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand

Is it strange to be creeped out by a single-celled organism?

Algae are one of the simplest forms of life, yet they are constantly meddling in human society. Reproducing like mad, poisoning our water supply in deceivingly colourful blooms, constantly reminding us that our oceans and lakes are filled with the crap they thrive on. What downers.

In a bold escalation of their aggression, algae have been discovered assembling in a 24-kilometer long, stringy mass of black slime off the coast of Alaska. Scientific tests confirmed that, contrary to my initial hypothesis identifying the blob as Sarah Palin's political future, the slime is, in fact, algae.

Look at the picture for yourself: a massive, hairy, fish-catching, bird-eating, hissing log of sludge. Okay, the hissing part I made up…but it might as well be true. There were reports of a goose skeleton and feathers pulled out of this thing!

If oversized, oily drain trappings don't creep you out, know that some algal blooms are more insidious. The tropical species Gambierdiscus toxicus produces ciguatoxin, a chemical that builds up in reef fish and can cause its human victims to experience a gastrointestinal circus, not to mention the possible hallucinations, numbness, or even paralysis.

Its clear these "simple" organisms are becoming more sophisticated by the minute. We must not underestimate the ingenuity of our microscopic rivals. I mean, its not like we could actually learn something from these ecological weirdos, right?

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