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Mystery of 'space slime' linked to meteor shower has down-to-earth explanation

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 20, 2013

Animal, vegetable or mineral? It turns out this ‘astral jelly’ is produced by frogs

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Conservationists have identified a strange “slime” that has been discovered at a nature reserve in Somerset.

The jelly-like substance was found at the RSPB Ham Wall Nature reserve and had been baffling wildlife experts.

But a vet came forward to identify the four-inch-wide blobs of translucent jelly as linked to frogs.

Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB, said: “We’ve been delighted by the number of people that have contacted us about the mystery slime.

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“Many pointed out the sighting of a strange meteor-like object over the reserve last week captured on film by a local wildlife photographer. However, the majority of people suggested more earthly origins.

“Some identified it as a slime mould, but by far the commonest was that its appearance was related to amphibian activity.”

Devon vet Peter Green contacted the charity with a logical explanation for the slime.

Mr Whitehead explained: “At this time of year amphibians are spawning.

“The spawn is held in a substance known as glycoprotein which is stored in the female’s body.

“If the animal is attacked by a predator – herons for instance are fond of the occasional frog – it will quite naturally drop its spawn and the associated glycoprotein. This is designed to swell on contact with water, which gives the gelatinous mass we are all familiar with in frog spawn.

“However, if it’s unfertilised, it is just the empty glycoprotein that is dropped – which on contact with moist ground will swell and give a clear slime-like substance.

“While this is our favoured explanation for this appearance of slime, it’s also worth remembering that other things can give a similar appearance.”

Earlier it had been suggested the jelly-like substance had been seen before and variously described as star jelly or astral jelly because it was seen in the wake of meteor showers.

Click here to read our earlier story on the 'space slime' discovery near Glastonbury.

You can also click this link to find out more about our Somerset meteor story and photos.

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