I know the title sounds like something else, but I'm actually wondering about these things, which are also apparently called 'whale burps': enter image description here

This one was found on a beach on Lake Michigan.

Does anyone know if any scientific studies have been done on these? If so, can you refer me to them?

  • $\begingroup$ Are they supposed to come out of the lake? To me it looks like it is made up of land plant material, so possibly a birds nest? $\endgroup$ – skymningen Apr 7 '16 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I have to retract my suspicion. I found this, which states that there seems to be a publication, but I can't find the relevant publication mentioned. Maybe someone else has more luck? blogs.oregonstate.edu/breakingwaves/2011/01/12/… $\endgroup$ – skymningen Apr 7 '16 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ The publication @skymningen mentions is "Flotsam, Jetsam, and Wrack", available here. The explanation for "whale burps" in the publication is the same as given in Bob Specter's answer. $\endgroup$ – iayork Sep 6 '17 at 13:17

These surf or beach balls are made of plant material throughout the structure. They form by wave action along beaches. As the naturalist at Wilderness State Park, the campers and I discovered over 30 of these balls along the beach the summer of 2017. In previous summers we had found 0. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron were at record levels during the summer of 2017, the highest since 1998. This may explain the formation of these grass balls in abundance. We found some of the balls still in the water, in a depression, just offshore. Others were rolling in and out with the waves. Some had been deposited on the shore and were filled with large quantities of sand. I shook out nearly a cup of sand from one ball. I dissected one surf ball and found predominantly roots and grasses. I will continue to investigate the species of plants that form these curious creations and try to discover the secret to their formation

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