If there’s one thing I know for sure about Texans, it’s that the do not take kindly to being invaded. And I’m not sure about this part, but I would guess that goes double for something that looks like some kind of character from Men in Black (and stings, besides!).
These pretty-but-dangerous sea slugs are a type of nudibranch (hehehe), and they typically drift through the open ocean, never bobbing too close to the shore. There has recently been enough of a bloom, though, to cause an uptick in sightings along the Texas coastline, and the Padre Island National Seashore park is warning visitors to approach them with care.
The park preserves the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, which is protected by the government and is home to a host of rare, threatened, and endangered species. They have seen blue dragons before, but not in the numbers they’re seeing now.
The scientific name for the blue dragon sea slug is a Glaucus atlanticus, and they’re pretty interesting little creatures. They feed on other sealife like the deadly Portuguese man-o-war, and are able to retain the stinging nematocysts from their meal and redeploy them when hunting.
The re-sting isn’t any nicer than the original, which is why the park officials urge visitors to take care.
“If you see a dragon in the park, be amazed as they are a rare find. But also, keep your distance!’
A sting can result in nausea, pain, vomiting, localized swelling and a rash.
As always when dealing with beautiful but unfamiliar pieces of nature, being overly cautious is better than being rash – or you might end up with one on your body!