Bizarre dragon-like sea creature dubbed ‘the most beautiful killer in the ocean’ washed up on a South African beach!
Western Cape, South Africa (30 November 2020) – An incredibly rare sea creature known as a “Blue Dragon” has been found on the sand in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Blue Dragon – scientific name Glaucus Atlanticus – is a species of small, blue sea slug, a pelagic aeolid nudibranch, a shell-less gastropod mollusc in the family Glaucidae. According to a report published in The Sun, this animal is branded as “the most beautiful killer in the ocean”.
The stunning yet poisonous creature is in shades of white, blue and metallic blue and looks like a cross between a lizard, dragon and a bird is known as a Blue Dragon. As many as 20 of them were spotted by a local on Fish Hoek Beach in Cape Town.
Maria Wagener, who found the creatures on Fish Hoek Beach, often helps beached starfish back into the water but had a lucky escape when instinct told her to keep her distance.
“I’ve never seen them before, and I’ve lived near this beach for most of my life. I pick up starfish all the time and put them back into the sea, but I had a feeling that these would have a sting.”
The Blue Dragon is pelagic; they float upside down by using the surface tension of the water to stay up, where they are carried along by the winds and ocean currents. The Blue Dragons make use of countershading: the blue side of their body faces upwards, blending in with the blue of the water. The silver/grey side of the sea slugs faces downwards, blending in with the sunlight reflecting on the ocean’s surface when viewed facing upwards underwater.
The incredible sea creatures feed on other pelagic creatures, including the Portuguese man o’ war and other venomous siphonophores. This sea slug stores stinging nematocysts from the siphonophores within its own tissues as a defence against predators. Humans handling the slug may receive a very painful and potentially dangerous sting. The symptoms that may appear after being stung are nausea, pain, vomiting, acute allergic contact dermatitis, erythema, urticarial papules, potential vesicle formation and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
There is some evidence that it occurs throughout the world’s oceans, in temperate and tropical waters. It has been recorded from the east and south coasts of South Africa, European waters, the east coast of Australia, and Mozambique.
Wagener shared the photos of the Blue Dragon on her Facebook page, Fish Hoek Beach.
The Blue Dragons were still alive, and Wagener explained that the “tide would have taken them back to the sea”.