The appearance of a strange orange goo in an Alaskan village led many to spout rumors that the substance was extraterrestrial and toxic.
For the past year scientific researchers have analyzed the goo and formulated theories as to its exact makeup: “researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) first believed that the weird goo was created by millions of tiny crustacean eggs, […] upon closer analysis, the scientists changed their diagnosis, saying that it was actually a mass of spores from a type of fungus called rust – named so for its distinctive orange color – though in a quantity and location never before seen.
NOAA was getting closer but could not pinpoint the species without calling in specialists. To identify the specific form of fungus they consulted a Mycologist, “a botanist who specializes in fungi; […] a conclusive identification came from a collaboration between the American and Canadian Forest Services.”
Jennifer Frazer covered the strange story on her “Artful Amoeba” blog for Scientific American, and reported that the mystery had finally been solved: “the identity of the rust has been revealed at last. It is the Spruce-Labrador Tea Needle Rust, Chrysomyxa ledicola, a parasite of both spruce trees and a rhododendron — a flowering woody shrub common to conifer understories the world over — called Labrador Tea.”
The reason why these fungi appeared in such significant quantities remains a mystery but Yahoo News claims the occurrence is a “perfectly natural phenomena.” They also went on to explain that something similar happened in NewPort News, VA when “a bizarre, 4-foot (1.2 meters) brown-and-yellow blob was found; “the mysterious aquatic blob turned out to be a bryozoan, a colony of tiny animals that eat algae.”