Two Blobs – Both Scary – One Dying and One Now On Display

In September, when ocean temperatures were five degrees above normal, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) feared the re-emergence of a large ocean heatwave in the Pacific, which was known as “The Blob” when it formed before in 2014-15 and wreaked havoc with ocean ecosystems and wildlife at the time.  But due to a major shift in the weather pattern in the Gulf of Alaska, this year’s warm ocean water “blob” has begun to weaken and is expected to continue to lose strength as storms in the Pacific churn up colder water.  Meanwhile, a blob of another variety went on display over the weekend at the Paris Zoo — and according to Popular Mechanics, it isn’t an animal, plant, or fungus, it has 720 sexes but no brain, loves oatmeal and is a billion years old. 

Why This Matters:  The weakening of the Pacific Ocean warm water blob is hugely good news for fishermen and for wildlife in the region.  The Blob that formed in 2014-15 caused widespread die-offs of marine animals including sea birds and California sea lions, and it caused the formation of harmful algal blooms that severely impacted commercial fisheries because it made fish and shellfish in the area unsafe for human consumption.  A warm ocean water blob can also greatly impact weather patterns.  Climate scientists predict the emergence of more ocean heatwaves in the future due to climate change.  The blob now on display in Paris is a fascinating creature that scientists at the Zoo created in a petri dish and displays amazing abilities to learn even though it has no brain.  Both of these blobs demonstrate the value of science and beg the question  —  what can we learn from them?

The Pacific Ocean Blob of 2019

NOAA scientists have created the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment to track and interpret environmental change off the West Coast so that they can monitor shifting conditions.  They were alarmed in September when the ocean warming reached similar conditions to those seen in 2014-15, but also said at the time that if weather patterns shifted, this year’s blob could dissipate quite quickly, which is what seems to be happening now.

Paris Zoo Blob

The blob is actually a slime mold and can exist as a standalone being or aggregate with other organisms.

  • It is scientifically known as Physarum polycephalum (“many-headed slime”) and can also move and expand itself across surfaces at the rate of 1.6 inches an hour, according to CNN.
  • It is also believed to be capable of solving problems, such as finding the shortest way to exit a labyrinth and anticipating changes in its environment, even though it does not have a brain.

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