Scientists have identified mysterious orange-colored goo that last week washed ashore and sparked pollution concerns in an Alaska village as small and possibly toxic crustacean eggs.
After examining the samples, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Service Center announced Monday that they believe it was a mass of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets, most likely to be of a small crustacean.
“We now think these are some sort of small crustacean egg or embryo, with a lipid oil droplet in the middle causing the orange color,” Jeep Rice, a lead NOAA scientist at the Juneau lab, said in a press release.
"So this is natural. It is not chemical pollution; it is not a man-made substance," he added.
The question didn’t take long for scientists to solve once they examined the matter under a high-powered microscope, determining it was composed of microscopic invertebrate eggs from an unidentified species of crustacean.
But the mystery is not completely solved as questions remain about what species the eggs came from and whether they’re toxic. The samples were sent to a NOAA lab on the East Coast for further testing.
Although the eggs are natural, Rice could not rule out the possibility that the microscopic eggs were toxic. This is what makes the residents of Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community, worried.
“Scientists who made the preliminary identification are confident that they are correct,” said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for NOAA's Fisheries Service in Alaska, Reuters reported.
"I would say we're pretty darn sure that they're microscopic eggs. We just don't know what species. The material is sticky, but becomes a powder when dried,” she said.
Residents of Kivalina said they had never seen anything like it before. The substance had a "bay oil" like feel to it and was odorless, resident Mida Swan said.
It was also found in the Wulik River, which flows into the lagoon and is a source of drinking water for the villagers. Villagers have suspended storing water from the river till the scientists determine what exactly the material is.
Kivalina is a remote Inupiat Eskimo village on Alaska's northwest coast, about halfway between Kotzebue and Point Hope.
Meanwhile, online community is surprised when the goo was linked to aliens. One blogger wrote: "If I lived there, I'd want this mystery solved ASAP. Because, let's face it, the longer we let this alien larvae sit there, the closer we get to extraterrestrial takeover!"