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Old 06-04-2019, 05:20 PM
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So what are these weird black masses (erroneously called "tick nests") on the forest floor?


A few years ago Snopes addressed a Facebook viral "warning" about supposed "tick nests." the accompanying photo showed a black glob of goo that looked like caviar, or maybe blackberry jam. Snopes thought it might be regurgitated amphibian ovaries.

I like Snopes but on this one, they're totally off the mark. The reason I know this is because whatever this shit is it has shown up in the playground of the daycare my wife works at: huge (like, dinner plate sized) gobs of this crap in the playground, and it appears to be spreading. The playground is covered in wood chips, so whatever it is likes wet wood. My wife tried using a shovel to scoop some into a trash can but couldn't, she said the smell was overpowering. It had an earthy, fungal / mildew smell to it. The center director advised staff to go out and douse it with bleach water after the center closes for the day.

My Google-Fu is failing me. So, what is this stuff?
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Old 06-04-2019, 05:26 PM
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Nostoc?

ETA: looking at the Snopes photo, probably not. Can you get a good photo of the stuff on the playground?

Last edited by beowulff; 06-04-2019 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 06-04-2019, 05:26 PM
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Frog-spawn. Stress can cause frogs to lay eggs in unlikely places.
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:17 PM
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What makes you think Snopes is off the mark?
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:38 PM
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I don't think it's frog spawn, since the blobs are all black, rather than transparent with black tadpoles growing inside.

It kind of looks like caviar. Could it be fish eggs?
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:51 PM
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What makes you think Snopes is off the mark?
Because I've seen frog eggs and they don't look like this. Frog eggs are almost clear with a small black speck inside. Also, they're always laid in water as far as I know. Certainly not laid by the cubic foot in playground wood chips. If, as snopes suggest, it was some internal organs that had been upchucked by some predator I suspect there would a pile of dead frog bits, not just the eggs (or ovaries, as Snopes suggests). Additionally, frogs aren't particularly numerous around here. These piles are huge. I'll have my wife take pics and I'll try to post them later.
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:53 PM
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Could it be fish eggs?
The closest source of water that would have fish (and thus fish egss) is probably 2 miles away.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:22 PM
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Lessee if this works...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/181841870@N04/

Im on my phone so hopefully I did this right. These are pics of some smaller clusters. My wife said that when they poured bleach water on them they emitted something akin to smoke: some fine particulate matter that became airborne. Additionally, underneath the black the stuff is brown.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:32 PM
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If it's in the woodchips, it's probably some sort of mold or fungus. Black wood fungus, shotgun fungus, etc. Does it look like it was dropped on top of the mulch, or like it grew from underneath?
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:35 PM
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Are you sure it's not animal poo?
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:37 PM
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Id bet its some type of slime mold.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:42 PM
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Id bet its some type of slime mold.
Here's a picture of black slime mold. Looks a lot like caviar.
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Old 06-04-2019, 10:23 PM
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Here's a picture of black slime mold. Looks a lot like caviar.
I think you nailed it.
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:51 PM
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It could be the mould, but the moment I saw the Snopes photo, my first though was deer scat.
The exact appearance depends on the species, the diet, and the current health of the beast.
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Old 06-05-2019, 08:01 AM
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The "smoke" coming up when bleach is poured on it makes me think it's almost certainly some sort of fungus, with fine spores.
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Old 06-05-2019, 08:49 AM
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Are you sure it's not animal poo?
My first thought when I looked at the OP's pic was bear poop.
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Old 06-05-2019, 09:08 AM
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The "smoke" coming up when bleach is poured on it makes me think it's almost certainly some sort of fungus, with fine spores.
Slime molds make spores too, though they're not fungi. My guess would also be a slime mold, as they feed on decomposing organic matter like wood chips. And they can move.

Slime molds are such strange organisms. They're not plants, they're not animals, they're not fungi, they're not bacteria... So what the heck are they? They're basically giant amoebae.
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Old 06-05-2019, 10:00 AM
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Given that this is a daycare, it sounds like there's the potential for an educational experience here. Scoop some up (together with the woodchips it's growing on), put it in an aquarium, and wait to see what it does.
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Old 06-05-2019, 12:35 PM
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Given that this is a daycare, it sounds like there's the potential for an educational experience here. Scoop some up (together with the woodchips it's growing on), put it in an aquarium, and wait to see what it does.
That was actually my suggestion once we (thanks to all here that helped) figured out what it was. However, the director is in "nuke it from orbit" mode, so no dice.
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Old 06-05-2019, 01:41 PM
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Before you destroy it all... what does it taste like?

Maybe volunteer one of the braver kids?

Last edited by Reply; 06-05-2019 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 06-05-2019, 02:12 PM
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Given that this is a daycare, it sounds like there's the potential for an educational experience here. Scoop some up (together with the woodchips it's growing on), put it in an aquarium, and wait to see what it does.
"Me-Tee-Or shit!"
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Old 06-05-2019, 02:33 PM
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I think you nailed it.
Credit goes to beowulff for the suggestion. I just provided a picture.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Given that this is a daycare, it sounds like there's the potential for an educational experience here. Scoop some up (together with the woodchips it's growing on), put it in an aquarium, and wait to see what it does.
It would be funny if you did this and it was just animal poo.
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Old 06-05-2019, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
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Given that this is a daycare, it sounds like there's the potential for an educational experience here. Scoop some up (together with the woodchips it's growing on), put it in an aquarium, and wait to see what it does.
Like they did at my son's daycare, when they put all the monarch butterfly chrysalises from the milkweeds outside in an aquarium, so the kids could witness the beautiful miracle of dozens of tiny wasps hatching from each (parasitized) one?
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Old 06-06-2019, 08:05 AM
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Like they did at my son's daycare, when they put all the monarch butterfly chrysalises from the milkweeds outside in an aquarium, so the kids could witness the beautiful miracle of dozens of tiny wasps hatching from each (parasitized) one?
The Circle of Life!
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Old 06-06-2019, 11:25 AM
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The Circle of Life!
The circle of oblivious children and shrieking teachers...
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Old 06-06-2019, 03:26 PM
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The Circle of Life!

"And so the endless cycle of life comes to an end - meaningless and grim. Why did they live and why did they die? No reason. . . . For in the end, nature is horrific and teaches us nothing."
-Futurama.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:44 PM
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Before you destroy it all... what does it taste like?

Maybe volunteer one of the braver kids?
Lets give it to Mikey, he'll eat anything!
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