NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Researchers say they've identified a mystery "alien pod" found floating in a man-made lake in Virginia as a bryozoan, an invertebrate known as a moss animal.
Employees with a Newport News company spotted the large, strange-looking blob floating in the lake near the business last Thursday.
They said 4-foot-wide mystery object looked like a "huge dead snake" or some "weird underwater fungus."
As it was near Halloween, one guessed, "it has to be an alien pod."
Someone took photos and e-mailed them to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a part of The College of William and Mary.
The final consensus by VIMS researchers was that the organism was an example of Pectinatella magnifica -- the "magnificent bryozoan," a college release said Monday.
The vast majority of bryozoans live in salt water and are common but inconspicuous filter feeders that grow in thin, encrusting colonies atop rocks, kelp blades, shellfish, and other hard objects.
Freshwater bryozoans are far less common, but they make up for that with their size, like the 4-foot colony floating in Newport News.
Bryozoans consume algae, so the "alien pod" is "actually a good thing to have around, despite its looks," VIMS Professor Carl Hershner said.
"It's not a sign of bad water quality," he adds, "and it doesn't hurt fish. It can clog pipes, though, and it will be smelly if it's removed from the water."