Marine experts are baffled by a mysterious grey lump found on a Perth beach, with opinions divided as to whether it is an unusual sea urchin, marine invertebrate animal or a valuable lump of whale vomit.
The mysterious blob was found on the shore of South City Beach by a dog walker on the morning of August 3.
“I kind of poked it with my foot and I thought, that’s so weird,” the woman named Amanda told Yahoo7.
“It’s probably about 15 centimetres and it’s a kind of grey, browny, even a little bit of blue on it.
“It kind of looks like skin, like a really thick shark skin,”
“It’s just a mysterious blob,” she said.
Amanda wondered if the lump was ambergris, or whale vomit, a rare and expensive ingredient used by perfume makers to help scents last longer.
She later returned to the beach with her father to conduct a ‘hot wax’ test on the blob. Amanda heated up a needle and plunged it into the lump, hoping that it would melt into wax.
According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, “if the substance is really ambergris it will instantly melt into an opaque fluid the colour of dark chocolate”.
To their disappointment, the substance did not melt into wax like ambergris and they are no closer to knowing the true identity of the lump.
“From all of my searching, the closest thing I can see is some kind of sea cucumber that’s just not in the normal shape of a sea cucumber,” she said.
“I’m pretty sure it’s not whale vomit,” she said.
A type of sea urchin or cucumber perhaps
Experts are divided on the alien-like blob, but agree the substance is unlikely to be ambergris.
Dr Jane Prince, Lecturer at the University of Western Australia said that the item could be a sea creature.
“It has the shape of a heart urchin,” Dr Prince told Yahoo7.
“The surface is not unlike that of a heart urchin and the size is within the range of heart urchin sizes,”
“The pale section on the top surface at the right hand end of the object could be construed as the five pronged petalloid arrangement of pores for the tube feet,”
“I’m pretty sure it’s not ambergris!” she said.
Or a marine invertebrate animal
Dr Mike Hall, a Research Scientist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), told Yahoo7 that the item is likely to be “a large solitary tunicate”, which is a marine invertebrate animal.
Initially, he thought that the item could be a “misshapen Porcupine fish swim bladder” which is a strange, leathery organ of a fish.
“These strange, leathery objects found occasionally on beaches are special internal organs of the Porcupine fish,” according to the Queensland Museum.
“They were once the swim-bladders that inflated or deflated to control buoyancy and balance as the fish moved up and down in the water,” said the Queensland Museum.
However, Dr Hall said that “since the object is oblong (and rubbery looking)”, it is unlikely to be a porcupine fish swim bladder, which is typically shaped like a horse shoe.
Regardless of the lump’s identity, the Australian Government regulates the possession of ambergris as it is a whale product and places restrictions on sale of the item.