Moss Balls either marimo (in Japanese it means something like “seaweed balls”) are a kind of filamentous green algae called «Aegagropila linnaei» that grow in large green balls with a velvety appearance.
These balls grow to sizes from 12 to 30 centimeters across, depending on where they are found. Marimos are rare and are known to occur only in Iceland (Lake Mývatn) Scotland (to a lesser extent) and Japan (mainly Lake Akan).
Although recently these peculiar balls they have also appeared at Dee Why Beach in Sydney being the first to appear in the southern hemisphere.
The filaments of the marimos grow in all directions starting from the center of the ball, branching out continuously and thus laying the foundation for a spherical shape.
In Japan, the marimo is protected and revered, and has been officially a natural treasure since 1920.. In Lake Akan, great efforts are invested in the conservation of these balls, and there is even an annual marimo commemoration festival that lasts for 3 days.
Marimo is also a staple food in many Japanese aquariums.
While in Japan’s Lake Akan the marimo is constantly boiling, in Iceland’s Lake Myvatn is slowly disappearing. A few decades ago, these balls covered two to three layers of the lake bottom, but today most of them have disappeared.
The disappearance is attributed to pollution caused by mining in the areawhich began around 1960. The large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen dumped into the lake have dramatically increased the bacteria in the lake itself, swarming so densely that they blocked sunlight from reaching the bottom of the lake. With less light, the algae began to die.
The Marimos were given the status of protected species in Iceland in 2006.