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Mysterious Eggs Baffling Scientists

Oklahoma scientists have hooked a mystery in Lake Eufaula. They're finding fish that look perfectly healthy on the outside, but on the inside, it's a catfish of a different color. Two days before weekend show boaters take over the lake, the water belongs to science. News On 6 meteorologist Dick Faurot reports biologist Stuart Woods is out with game wardens and researchers, trying to solve a purple puzzle.

"It was an unknown phenomenon, unknown worldwide as far as we can tell, only in Lake Eufaula,” said Woods. “No place else has anyone ever heard of this."

Woods says it started last year when a half-dozen female blue catfish turned out to have discolored eggs. Normally yellow or cream-colored, a few fish had purple eggs. Scientists were baffled and still are. That's why they're back on the lake, to gather more information.

The Wildlife Department runs a boat that stuns blue catfish with an electric shock. Volunteers scoop up the fish, and try to sort out the females. Most look healthy from the outside. Woods says that's part of the challenge.

The researchers take a sample of the eggs with a syringe. Those that look suspicious have to be cut open. Out of ten fish, Woods' crew found two with purple eggs. An Arkansas lab says the discolored eggs will never hatch, but with every answer, comes more questions.

"Now we know it has at least two years in a row, so we're going to be curious if it continues,” said Woods. “Will it be 5 years, 10 years? Is this a permanent discoloration?"

Woods is worried if the purple plague spreads, it could reduce the blue-cat population. He doesn't know if it could spread to other species. A lab in Missouri will check to see if it's a toxin, protein or an enzyme causing the discoloration. But until scientists know what's causing it, there's no way to stop it.

The researchers will be out on the lake Thursday and Friday, before the Memorial Day crowd arrives, but they say the extra anglers may help. They need more samples.

If you catch a blue catfish with purple eggs, call 918-207-6703.

Watch the video: Mystery Eggs
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