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Bryozoan

Bryozoan

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RALEIGH It looks like blob of wriggling pudding staring out through a single, puckered eye.

You can see it caught on camera, clinging to the concrete pipes below Raleigh's Cameron Village: the Sewer Monster.It's really a colony of prehistoric creatures known either as bryozoans or moss animalcules, thousands of wormlike animals, biologists report.

Clustered together in a glistening mass, they feed through tentacles on whatever floats past.

More common in ponds, they have turned up in a set of sanitary sewer pipes under one of the country's oldest shopping centers.

Living in a 6-inch sewer main, the clusters of worms are about the size of a golf ball, estimates Ed Buchan, an environmental coordinator with the city.

But the video footage, captured with a tiny snakelike camera, makes the monster appear at man-eating size to viewers watching at home.

That may explain why a two-minute video tour of the Sewer Monster's lair has spread across the Web like flesh-eating bacteria, prompting nationwide cries of horror and disgust."Mystery Life Form in NC Sewer!" read one headline, followed by this comment: "It looks like meat.

HEART MEAT!"At Cameron Village on Wednesday evening, visitors were split into two groups: Those who had seen the sewer monster video and been horrified, and those who planned to Google it the minute they had the chance.Maria Schmitt, 21, Jeff Lepley, 21, and Annie Powell, 21, were in the latter camp, but they quickly rectified that using Schmitt's iPhone."It looks like a brain or something," Schmitt said.

"That's in the pipe?""I keep expecting a baby's head to pop out," added Lepley said."I'm glad I don't live here," said Powell, a Houston native.

The trio immediately regretted their decision to watch the video before eating dinner at the Village Draft House."I'm glad I didn't order pasta," Schmitt said.Contractor shot videoRaleigh's Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp said the video was not shot by the city, but rather a contractor hired by the property owner.

Lynne Worth, property manager for Cameron Village, was out of the office Wednesday and could not be reached.

Crisp said the city first learned of the video several weeks ago when a link was sent to an employee in the stormwater division.

Raleigh has two teams of employees whose sole task is to send tiny cameras into sewer lines and then review the footage.

This video surprised even the pros who thought they'd seen it all."I don't know if we've seen anything move on its own inside a sanitary sewer line," Crisp said.

But shop owners in Cameron Village only laughed.

This isn't the first time a bryozoan has ventured inside a sewer pipe.

Denver's utility workers discovered some last year, but opted to leave them alone.

So far, said Mitch Terry, of the Colorado city's water and sanitation district, they hasn't clogged anything.Critters are harmlessBryozoans are harmless, said Thomas Kwak, a biologist at N.C.

State University.

If they were to take on the qualities of a Sewer Monster, it would be a very slow attack.

Bryozoans move 1 to 10 centimeters a day, Kwak said.

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http://www.charlotteobserver.com/local/story/812094.html
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