An unusual, neon-blue creature spotted earlier this month on a beach in Queensland, Australia might resemble a tiny Targaryen dragon, but in reality the bizarre lifeform is a type of sea slug commonly called the Blue Dragon.
Video footage captured by locals show the amazing striped creature wriggling around the waters of Queensland’s Broadbent beach, and according to Tech Times and Mental Floss, it is officially named the Glaucus atlanticus. These slugs float on their backs and move using the water’s surface tension, and are typically found in moderate to tropical bodies of water.
The slug feeds on venomous jellyfish, but instead of being harmed by its prey’s toxic sting cells (nematocysts), the Blue Dragon digests them and stores the venom on the outside of its body. It uses this as a defense mechanism against would-be predators or nosy humans, and as one would expect, experts recommend not touching the slug, no matter how incredible it may look.
In addition, G. atlanticus, which typically grows to between 3-4 centimeters (1.18-1.57 inches) in length, uses its strange stripes as camouflage to hide from potential threats from both above and below. As it floats along, its blue underside helps it blend in with the water’s surface, while its silver back creates the illusion of the shimmering surface of its oceanic home.
A ‘beautiful’ but dangerous creature
The Blue Dragon slug featured in the video was discovered by Queensland resident Lucinda Fry on Thursday morning, according to the Gold Coast Bulletin. It was later identified by Kylie Pitt, a professor and marine invertebrates expert from Griffin University in nearby Brisbane.
In addition, atlanticus is a nudibranch, a type of soft-bodied marine creature that initially has a shell, then sheds it following its larval stage, Pitt explained. These gastropod mollusks are typically known for their striking shapes and colors, and according to the World Register of Marine Species, most of the 2,300 known nudibranch species are omnivorous predators and scavengers.
The Dodo, a website dedicated to animal-related stories, said that the Blue Dragons are “rarely seen by humans” but are “probably among the most beautiful animals on the planet.” The video, they added, provides “a fleeting glimpse of one of Earth’s prettiest inhabitants” – an unusual title for a slug to have, if we’re perfectly honest.