Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 10 July 2012 13:37
Several bryozoa, which are floating, blob-like animals, were observed near the swimming area of the lake last week.
The creatures became a topic of conversation among lake residents, and by the end of the week a crew from KWCH-TV in Wichita had broadcast a brief story about them.
Brenda Casanova, who comes to the lake with her husband, Lou, for boating and fishing, heard about the creatures from lake residents. An avid nature photographer, she snapped some photos and sent them in to the TV station.
“There is no behavior that you can see,” Casanova said of their activity. “I’m not sure what is going on under them, but I did not want to turn them over to see if they had babies or eggs, or what they might be eating. I would say if we get cooler temps and some rain, they might go deeper in the mud.”
The bryozoa may be a new phenomenom for most people, but they are not new to the county lake.
“They’ve been here for quite some time,” said Steve Hudson, lake superintendent. “They’re a good thing to have in the water, and they’ve been around for millions and millions of years, like prehistoric times.”
There are actually 4,000 different species of bryozoa, and most live in tropical environments.
Hudson said bryozoa are relatively rare in Kansas lakes and, according to a state biologist, the creatures are harmless to humans and actually benefit the lake’s ecosystem.
The bryozoa feed on algae, among other things.
“They say they take the impurities out of the water and they spit out fresh water,” Hudson said. “They’re a natural filtration system, basically.”
Hudson said he first encountered bryozoa years ago while he was fishing at the lake.
“I snagged a large branch, brought the branch up and one was attached to the branch that was about as big as a football,” he said.
Bryozoa generally latch on to the solid objects, such as buoys and boat docks, Hudson said.
“A lot of them are showing up at the beach area, and I think the reason they’re showing up there is the way the wind has been blowing,” he said. “If they get bounced around enough, they’ll uncling themselves, and then they’ve been drifting into the beach area.”
The state biologist said the few Kansas lakes that contain bryozoa are having something of an outbreak of them this year because of temperature and water conditions.
“To have them in our lake is pretty rare,” Hudson said. “I think with the lake being as old as it is—1939 was when it was built—has contributed to that.”
Casanova has become intrigued by the creatures—and concerned about their well-being.
“I noticed that someone had been throwing rocks on them and a few still had rocks on them,” she said. “I just hope no one goes and disturbs them. They are here for a reason and that reason is not to be tormented.”