Sunday, 6 October 2013

Jelly Jerry

So somewhere mid-summer we were swimming off the dock when we noticed a large jelly-like mass on the ladder. At first we assumed it was eggs, but it didn't look quite right and was more solid then an egg mass usually is. After a bit of research we came up with Bryozoa, which are more commonly known as "moss animals" for their resemblance to coral or moss - although ours is a bit different jelly-like freshwater species and it is indeed ALIVE! There are 4,000 species of these guys identified in the world. We left that one in the water and unfortunately we didn't take any pictures of it as we were swimming and therefore wet, and well, I'm not one to have my phone with me at all times. But generally it looked like this:

By Triclops200

Fast forward a month or two and we were getting the place ready for winter, which included taking the dock ladder in. And wasn't it covered in these jelly guys! So Bunny took it upon herself to "rescue" them from Grandpa's pressure washer and safely stored them in a costco-sized cashew jar for further observation. She named it en masse Jelly Jerry. Beans helped by putting in some small pieces and naming them Veronica (no doubt influenced by the large Archie comic collection stored in the cabin). 

Jelly Jerry in a Jar

So, what the heck are Bryozoa and why is it attached to the dock? 

They are a teensy weensy aquatic critter that lives in colonies. The little guys themselves are microscopic, but they get together in such numbers that the colonies are visible and can actually get quite large! Check out this article of a giant one! The ones we found are a gelatinous species that are native to North America and they do love to hang out on docks or other submerged wood - so we essentially found it in a "natural" habitat. I would assume this would mean originally they like submerged logs and the like, but we have a bunch of boards all together in a large rectangle which it seems to be fond of. They are filter feeders and eat things like algae, bacteria, protozoa and other microscopic things, which make sense as they are also microscopic. And they are helpful little guys in that they improve water quality with their filtering (which is just eating to them). Stuff eats them too and here in Georgian Bay that's snails, insects and fish. In the ocean it would be sea slugs, sea urchins, starfish, crustaceans and fish.

The gelatinous material is secreted by the zooids (fancy name for the little guys individually) and they stick to it. So the "jelly" is like their house. Every summer they release small larvae that swim away and establish new colonies, which may explain why there were SO MANY on the ladder of all different sizes (I'm really kicking myself now for not having my camera). Super cool fact: they don't have a respiratory or circulatory system - they absorb oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide right through their body.

General anatomy of a bryozoan

Bunny is pretty entranced by the whole deal and the fact that these are tiny creatures in there she can't really see. It's kind of like magic creatures to her. So we've put them in a clear jar with some freshwater so she can take Jelly Jerry to school. Hopefully her teacher likes magical jelly lake creatures too.

Jelly Jerry in his new clear water for school

Pleased with her new Jelly "pet"
Photobomb by Beans who cannot eat a cookie
without getting it entirely all over her face.

Where we learned from and LOTS more stuff about Bryozoa:


  1. Very cool! I have never even heard of this...very informative! BTW, your kids are ADORABLE - I love the photobomb! I have the feeling they would mesh well with my own two girls. Keep up the fun posts! :-)

    1. Thanks! Jelly Jerry is still residing at school - her class thought he was pretty cool too.
      I think you are right - our older daughters even share the same name! :)