May I introduce, the Magnificent Bryozoan??
How cool must you be to be labeled magnificent???
Pectinatella magnifica is a species of freshwater bryozoan in the class of Phylactolaemata. As such, these are microscopic aquatic invertebrates that live in colonies, building exoskeletons similar to those of corals. Most live under the surface of the water, attached to rocks or branches.
Their exoskeletons are gelatinous-like jelly, taking the form of round, solid like masses that can be confused with egg masses of salamanders that are also more round, solid and firm, unlike the slippery and loose clusters of frog or toad egg masses.
This is a community affair, with each tiny individual microscopic bryozoan (zooid) attached to the surface of the colony at its base. Each has a head-like structure crowned with tentacles which filter food from the water. Serious magnification is needed to view each tiny zooid. They reproduce both by cloning, and also by creating eggs and sperm. They can also produce ‘statoblasts’ which function like seeds, allowing them to create new colonies. These statoblasts can sink to the bottom of the pond, surviving a winter and the ice that kills the colony at the surface. In spring, the statoblasts produce mini free swimming larvae that establish new colonies.
The zooids grow in rosette-like patches over the gelatinous mass, which can give it a beautiful appearance. Other masses might not always look as beautiful, depending on the unusual growth and sometimes tentacle like stretches of growth that look more like intestine stretches.
These are native to Eastern Canada and the United States, and have probably moved westward by hitchhiking on stocked plants, fish and boats. But unlike some other non native species, they can benefit their freshwater ponds by improving water clarity by removing large quantities of suspended algae and inorganic silt and clay, promoting algae and microphytic growth.
Ain’t nature grand ?? ❤️