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Unknown ‘Blue Goo’ Puzzles Marine Scientists

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Sea life can be as alien as extraterrestrials. Marine scientists with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US) Ocean Exploration aboard the Okeanos Explorer discovered this during a week-long expedition in August that used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to dive the waters between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Not once, but several times. Many examples of a ‘blue goo’ like thing – scientists couldn’t decide if it was an animal, plant, or mineral – were seen on video at a depth of 1,400 feet. 

Unknown Blue Organism. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration - Voyage to the Ridge 2022
Unknown Blue Organism. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration – Voyage to the Ridge 2022

“One of the coordinators from the expedition, Sam Candio, was able to confirm that there is no conclusive identification yet of the ‘blue goo.’ Unfortunately, we were not able to collect a sample during the dive, so any further identification will need to happen through a review of video and data from the expedition,” says Emily Crum, NOAA public affairs specialist, based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Banter during the expedition’s live feed alternatively labeled the blue-hued blob as ‘bumpy blue things’ and ‘blue bio mats’. In the end, scientists thought it might be a type of soft coral, sponge, or tunicate, the latter of which is marine invertebrate animal. 

“Regarding other finds from this expedition, the team did encounter a lot of sargassum in the region, which had an impact on overall expedition operations,” Crum adds.

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The ‘blue goo’ was spotted on NOAA’s third Voyage to the Ridge 2022 expedition, which focused on exploration and mapping of the Azores Plateau, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and deep waters off Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. oceanexplorer.noaa.gov 

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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