The mysterious orange-colored goo that washed up on the shore of a remote Alaska village this month has now been identified fungal spores, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA on Thursday said the orange goo is consistent with spores that come from a fungus that causes rust. Rust is a plant-only disease that causes a rust-like appearance on leaves and stems, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service said.
Last week, NOAA identified the mysterious substance as millions of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets. The agency's scientists have said the fat-filled eggs could be embryos produced by some kind of crustacean. The mystery then, was to determine the exact species of the egg and find out whether they were toxic.
We'll probably find some clues, but we'll likely never have a definitive answer, Julie Speegle of the NOAA has said.
The goo, found at the edge of Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community at the tip of a barrier reef on Alaska's northwest coast, quickly disappeared, but many of the 347 residents in the village are still worried about whether there will be any long-term effects.
Samples were sent to a NOAA laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, for further analysis and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation also sent samples to the Institute for Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Now, it is unknown whether the spore is among the 7,800 known species of rust fungi, according to NOAA.
The spores are unlike others we and our network of specialists have examined, said Steve Morton, a research oceanographer with the Charleston lab, in a news release. However, many rust fungi of the Arctic tundra have yet to be identified.
City administrator Janet Mitchell said those fears will only intensify with the latest analysis, which didn't include toxicity tests, according to the Washington Post. Mitchell is also troubled about the community's dwindling reserves in village water tanks that will need to be topped off, the paper added.
We are going have more concern from the public, she said. If I'm concerned, then there will be others with concerns.