'Blob' Samples to Be Sent to Foreign Labs [url]http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=T0UYWYSIBGZEECRBAEZSFFA?type=scienceNews&storyID=3035042[/url]
SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chileans who found a huge blob of flesh washed up on a remote Pacific beach said on Thursday they would send samples of the specimen to foreign scientists to sort out if it is a rare giant octopus or part of a whale carcass. Scientists have been boggled by the 40-foot-long mass of gray, gelatinous flesh that was first spotted over a week ago near Puerto Montt, about 600 miles south of the capital, Santiago. The specimen, which remains on the beach, looks like a huge lumpy piece of slippery rubber in the shape of a squashed elephant. Whale conservationists went to see it last Sunday, thinking it was a beached whale, but quickly concluded it was an invertebrate, appealing to international experts for help. Since then, theories have emerged of a rare giant octopus that is feared by fishermen in some parts as the "Bermuda Blob," while skeptics say it may be a piece of whale blubber. Italian and French zoologists have said the Chilean find matches the description of a bizarre specimen found in Florida in 1896 that one scientist at the time named as "octopus giganteus." Others have disputed his conclusions. "We are working on sending the samples to laboratories that have different opinions on it," said Elsa Cabrera, director of the Center for Cetacean Conservation. Cabrera and her team have been flooded with calls from around the world by people eager to know more about the "blob" or offering help. She plans to send tissue samples next week to laboratories in the United States, France and Italy. "We're very pleased with the find because it has generated a huge amount of interest internationally," she said. DNA sequencing is the best bet for identifying the specimen, but underfunded researchers in Chile said the samples taken so far were insufficient and new ones were needed. "This is a very important find for science. We need to get down there as fast as possible so we don't lose the specimen," said Sergio Letelier, a researcher at the Museum of Natural History in Santiago. "But we don't even have money for the bus, let alone a plane fare. It's pathetic," he added.