A rare, beautiful but deadly creature has emerged from the sea along beaches in Texas.
Glaucaus Atlanticus, as it is known to marine biologists, also called the Blue Dragon Sea Slug, has been washing up on shores in much greater numbers than recorded in the previous half a century; and scientists have no valid theory as to why just yet.
These little blue wonders of the sea, usually measuring around three centimeters, are considered nudibranch, a group of marine mollusks known to have colorfully vivid patterns on their soft-shelled bodies.
The pretty little blue dragons feed on other sea creatures. Its diet includes the dreaded Portuguese Man o’ War as well as other poisonous siphonophorae, or jellyfish-like creatures.
Its defense mechanism is similar to that of a jellyfish as it secrets a stinging venom via explosive cells embedded within its tissue. Handling by a human can result in tremendous pain as well as very serious toxicity up to and including death.
The Facebook page for Padre Island National Seashore, a public family beach and campground in Corpus Christi, Texas, posted last week warning that one was spotted in the park, and while people should appreciate the chance to see one up close, take caution as their sting can be far worse than that of the Man o’ Wars.
This brilliantly colored and stunningly shaped but dangerous creature was discovered in 1777 by German naturalist and revolutionary, George Forster, the founder of modern-day travel brochures.
It is interesting to note that the slug-like creature is neither male nor female. When mating, both members of a pair can produce fertile eggs that fruit offspring.
Another interesting feature that makes the little blue creatures particularly unique is their ability to absorb and assimilate their prey’s poisonous cells when devouring other siphonophorae, such as the feared Man o’ War, and combine it with their own venom creating one of the most poisonous oceanic stings know to man. Their sting can produce extreme fever, nausea, and respiratory problems which can be fatal.
While sightings of the Blue Dragons have been rare, when seen, they appear in large clusters, most often spotted in the waters near India and Peru. Some archaeologists believe the dragon may have been highly cherished, perhaps even considered sacred, due to ancient indigenous culture’s reverence for such colors as jade, turquoise, and topaz in those regions.
Close biological examination of these creatures has produced little scientific insight into their social behaviors or methods of communication, which makes some scientists believe that they may be able to communicate by methods other than the five senses known to us. The purpose of the creature’s wavy front tentacles also remain largely a mystery to researchers today. Specimens kept in captivity tend not to survive very long. Some researchers have observed individuals attack and consume other individuals while in captivity.
Experts are advising beachgoers to refrain from handling and close examination of the Blue Dragons as their sting can prove quite hazardous. A YouTube video shows one amateur explorer handling the creature safely without protective equipment, which beckons the question why authorities are issuing dire warnings about these visitors from the deep sea.
The Blue Dragon is not alone among strange deep-sea creatures washing up on shores around the world in recent years. Beachgoers in Corpus Christi, Texas also discovered a very rare fish that normally resides around 1200 feet under the surface of the sea. A family in New Zealand came across a pink jellyfish which has been recorded as one of the largest in the world. according to a Fox News article from 2018.
The Gaucus Atlanticus, comes to us from a part of the ocean which remains mysterious and greatly unexplored and unknown to man. The strange biological functions of such creatures tickle the curiosity of those who ponder what other wonders lie beneath the deepest darkest regions of our planet and what of those wonders are not only alien to us, but perhaps alien to this planet.
Video credit: Brittney Waters