July 2, 2009

Experts disagree on YouTube organism ID

Experts said a popular YouTube video of a moving, slimy mass in a Raleigh, N.C., sewer depicts a colony of tubifex worms or invertebrates called byrozoan.

Ed Buchan, an environmental coordinator with the Raleigh Public Utilities Department, said the video, which was posted to YouTube in April and was chosen Wednesday as the top viral video on the Internet by TV Week, depicts a colony of tubifex worms, which can form clusters of up to 1 inch in diameter, WRAL-TV, Raleigh, reported Thursday.

However, Thomas Kwak, a biology professor at North Carolina State University's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, identified the creatures as a cluster of byrozoan, invertebrates found in both fresh and salt water.

While the two men disagreed about exactly what the organisms in the video are, they agreed that no danger is posed to the public from their presence in the sewer.

These organisms are completely harmless, Kwak said. It's another interesting aspect of nature that we don't get to see every day.