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Mystery jelly from outer space found in Norfolk

Star Jelly at the John Innes Centre.

Star Jelly at the John Innes Centre.

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It is something of an enigma but a scientist from Norwich has been inspecting a mystery jelly discovered growing in Norfolk.

The thick, clear substance, nicknamed ‘star jelly’, was discovered near Attleborough and has left Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre and his colleagues puzzled as to what it is.

Mr Bedford said: “We washed it first to get rid of surface algae. There’s still little filaments of algae running through the jelly but it is not associated with it, it just runs through it. We’ve kept some of it in water and it’s remained exactly as it was. It hasn’t evolved. The jelly that’s been kept out of water hasn’t dried up. It’s just very, very strange stuff. We have not got a clue what it is.”

The gelatinous substance gets its nickname from being allegedly deposited on the ground during meteor showers.

Andy Taylor, principal research scientist at Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, has researched previous samples of the jelly and said: “It was found usually after meteor showers and people who have found the material around this time made the link between the two. It’s been known since the 1700s and I think it was originally found in Germany. It’s not doing anything and people will find it all over the place.”

There are many theories of what it could be and Mr Taylor has one of his own.

“It is the unfertilised egg mass from frogs which has been left by predators. It’s essentially where a predator has been eating frogs and have discarded them. One of the things I was confused about is why would this happen in the autumn time as you wouldn’t expect frogs to be out then but of course they are moving about looking for places to hibernate. So I think they’re just being picked off around that time,” he said.

Mr Bedford isn’t convinced and said so far his studies have been inconclusive.

“If it was something that had been sicked up, then it would have dried up, disappeared. It doesn’t look like something that’s been regurgitated from an amphibian,” he said.

“It doesn’t look as though it’s something that’s been originated from a frog or toad and people haven’t been able to extract any DNA from it.”

Have you discovered something extaordinary? Contact reporter Donna-Louise Bishop on 01603 772438 or email donna-louise.bishop@archant.co.uk.

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