OUT OF THE BLUE

SEA CREA­TURE INVADING BEACHES

The Northern Star - - FRONT PAGE -

BALLINA’S beaches have been in­vaded by weird-look­ing blue dragons.

Cassie Chloe posted this photo on the Ballina In­for­ma­tion Ex­change Face­book page, ask­ing if the crea­ture was dan­ger­ous.

“Saw heaps of these washed up on An­gels Beach ... my friend said they are glau­cus at­lanti­cus (blue dragon/sea slug),” she posted.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Mu­seum, the blue sea slug is “beau­ti­fully adapted for life float­ing up­side down in the sea”.

They only grow to about 4cm, and look very dif­fer­ent in and out of the wa­ter.

“Blue sea slugs feed al­most ex­clu­sively on the ten­ta­cles of blue­bot­tles,” the mu­seum web­site ex­plains.

“In­ter­est­ingly, the ne­ma­to­cysts (sting­ing cells) on these ten­ta­cles pass through the blue sea slug in­tact.

“The slug can then use these sting­ing cells in its own de­fence.”

In fact, the blue dragon can se­lect the most poi­sonous sting­ing cells from the blue­bot­tle and store them for later use.

They usu­ally wash on to our beaches af­ter strong on­shore winds, and are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by an in­flux of blue­bot­tles.

Last year, when hun­dreds of the blue dragons washed up on a Yamba beach, South­ern Cross Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Steve Smith said they were “some of the most amaz­ing look­ing ma­rine crea­tures you will ever see”.

“Even though they’re beau­ti­ful they can ac­tu­ally st­ing you, es­pe­cially with the wings,” he said.

BLUE DRAGON: Or glau­cus at­lanti­cus, in the wa­ter.

PHOTO: CASSIE CHLOE

WASHED UP: Blue dragon on An­gels Beach, Ballina.

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