An example of a dragon booger in freshwater. (Photo: Braunchitis/CC BY-SA 3.0)

See a mysterious floating blob in the river? Most people would simply leave it be, but residents of Stockton, California recently decided to pull some up and they discovered something that could be a signal of a larger environmental issue: dragon boogers.

According to CBS Sacramento is reporting, strange gelatinous blobs have been appearing in rivers and man-made lakes in various spots along the area delta. As curious fishermen and other locals began to dredge them up and slap them down on the docks (where they looked even more vile), sharing pictures on social media, some answers about their origins began to emerge.

They were not some kind of Lovecraftian discharge, as it turns out, although they weren’t exactly locals either. The strange blobs were identified as organisms called bryozoans. Also known as dragon’s boogers or moss animals, these discomfiting blobs are actually masses of much smaller creatures called zooids, each only about a half a millimeter long. However, they can band together to form larger slime lumps, while reaching out their countless minuscule tentacles to grab food. They just don’t usually appear in Northern California.

In fact they are not normally found west of the Mississippi River. No one is sure quite how they ended up so far west, whether they were accidentally relocated or whether climate change made the waters more hospitable for them. But their presence could disrupt the existing environmental balance in the delta.

At least they’re not from space.