Now, for your summer thrill entertainment, ATTACK OF THE KILLER ALGAE!
Our story begins, as many comic book plots do, with evil German scientists. The Stuttgart Zoo first cultivated Caulerpa taxifolia, a beautiful bright green seaweed, for use in its aquarium. For over twenty years, the plant was exposed to huge doses of ultraviolet light and nasty chemicals. In the 1980’s, a small sample was given to the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco (then headed by – of all people – Jacques Cousteau) where it flourished. One day, while the Museum was cleaning its tanks, it dumped the waste water into the Mediterranean. And soon the killer algae was on the loose.
In 1984, Alexandre Meinesz, a professor of biology at the University of Nice, warned the French government about a small patch of slime he had found at the shore. But…nobody…listened. Soon the beast was spreading across the Riviera. Fisherman reported their nets were becoming coated with thick green goo. Shellfish beds have been smothered, motorboats have been gummed up, scuba divers have been slimed. . The stuff is toxic to fish, so they can’t eat it. Nothing can slow it down. The French Navy was called in, and proved as hopeless at fighting the beast as you would expect the French Navy to be. The killer algae kept spreading, and now covers 10,000 acres off the coasts of Italy, France, Spain and Croatia.
And then it came here. In 2000 the killer algae was spotted in the waters off San Diego and Huntington Harbor. Gnarly! Scientists have fought the beast with black plastic tarps to cut off the sunlight, and heavy applications of chlorine, with some success. But then they discovered the mutant seaweed can grow asexually (oh, those German scientists). Just a single cell of the stuff can grow almost overnight into a huge colony. And now reports of killer algae are popping up all over the globe.
Can anything stop it? Well, here’s a solution worthy of a monster movie: SEA SLUGS! Researchers have found a slug, Elysia subornata, that can stick its nose into the algae and literally suck the life out of it. The slug has an enzyme which neutralizes the algae’s evil poison. Early tests have found the slugs to be effective, but unfortunately they can’t survive the cold waters of the Mediterranean. So they can keep the monster at bay, but they can’t wipe it out.
Who needs Hollywood with a storyline like this? KILLER ALGAE vs. SEA SLUGS!! Fighting it out in an ecosystem near you.