Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cyanobacteria OR Why Polar Bears Are Green

Have you ever watched a nature show about polar bears and thought, "What's wrong with the color? Why can I see that polar bear against the snow and ice? Way to be camouflaged, Mr. Freezee!"

Well, I'm here to tell you that it's cyanobacteria. The bacteria are called "cyano" because that means blue-green, and that's the color of it. Cyanobacteria grows in polar bear hair, where it's beneficial. (That's not what makes sloth hair green; that's algae, that is.)

Mr. Cyanobacteria is generally a friendly fella, producing oxygen for us to breathe. Get too many in one place, though, and, like sports fans after a big game, you can have trouble.

Sometimes cyanobacteria gets out of hand, reproduces waytoofast and forms a toxic bloom that can kill fish, animals and humans. This bloom might be visible, looking like foam, scum, a mat or a discoloration of the water, red (if a lot of them are dead), or might be invisible. There could be a bad smell, if a lot of them are dead. Cyanotoxicity can cause respiratory failure.

And you know what? When Mom and #4 daughter and I went to the Bahamas and visited the beach that the hotel provided, far from the hotel, actually, the beach was deserted, though the water was beautiful. It smelled bad. My eyes swelled shut and we had to leave.

And I have since had bouts of anaphylaxis, especially the respiratory and swollen tissue bits. Now I'm wondering if my reaction on that beach was an early warning sign brought on by cyanotoxins and we just didn't know it.

And oh, what a sneaky way to debilitate or eliminate a character: gather some bloom and introduce it into his or her favorite swimming spot, then make sure to expose him or her to a toxic amount. Investigators would find the same toxin that killed him or her in the swimming spot and declare natural causes.

Won't you be my neighbor?

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes


Gayle said...

Dang...I wish I'd read your post BEFORE I interrupted with my announcement. I'd better be careful and on the lookout for evil spores!

Seriously, though, it's scary that you had such a dramatic, almost instant reaction!

Notes Along the Way with Mary Montague Sikes said...

Goodness, I hadn't really noticed that. Green can be more dramatic than white, but I don't like the idea of cyanobacteria!

Thanks for sharing,
Mary Montague Sikes

Brenda McKenna said...

Cyanobacteria! Polar bears! Knives and cakes! Ooooh...