The Beautiful Sea Creature Experts Are Warning People Stay Far Away From

When young Hunter Lane and his parents, Trey and Leah, took a trip to the Texas Coast, they were hoping for the usual: waves crashing, sand on their feet, seagulls squawking. Plans to relax, however, quickly went haywire when Hunter saw an electric blue creature on the shore. Curious, the boy investigated, unaware that there were a few very persuasive reasons to leave the creature alone.

Some time after the events, Hunter’s dad spoke to the local news channel. “Hunter loves sea creatures,” Trey said. “And thought he had found a blue button jellyfish.” But young Hunter was very, very wrong.

WikiCommons

The 7-year old from Mesa, Arizona, was on a family vacation to Padre Island National Seashore, a thin strip of beach just off the coast of Corpus Christi in Texas. As soon as he saw the blue creature, he rushed over.

Amalen90X / reddit

Because he was a small boy without a great sense of danger, he grabbed his plastic shovel and scooped the creature out of the sand, excited to show it to his mom and dad.

reddit

After showing the animal to his father, however, he realized he wasn’t holding a blue button jellyfish. So, he proudly proclaimed he’d discovered a new species. Take one look at the creature, and it’s easy to see why he’d make such a bold claim.

The little animal Hunter picked up was shaped like a mini-dragon — complete with dark wings that fanned out from each side of its body. This mollusk is called a Glaucus atlanticus, or blue dragon. Despite their small size, they are known for being dangerous.

Hunter Lane/Padre Island National Seashore

Still, these dragons aren’t the fire-blowing type — instead they earn their name from their distinct movements. As they glide through the water, their external gills flow with them making it seem they like are flying.

When they move, they do so upside-down using their gas-filled stomach sacs. Even their bodies evolved to compensate for this unique movement style — their undersides are bright, but their tops are much darker. This way, if a predator is looking up, blue dragons can blend in with their surroundings.

Reinhold Thiele/Thiele/Getty Images

Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) issued a warning about avoiding blue dragons in the wake of this incident. These creatures are a type of sea slug that doesn’t form a shell — Nudibranchia, or “naked gills” — and their hunting capabilities make them formidable.

Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images

These exposed gills grow along the blue dragon’s side. They also have something called rhinophores, or tentacles, that sprout from their heads. The creature uses them to search for food, and their diet is, let’s say, unexpected for a tiny creature.

Their hyper-blue pigmentation is related to their diet. By eating a dangerous food source, they’re able to maintain their stunning hue. Even though they only reach three centimeters in length, they are known for being extremely aggressive hunters. 

The blue dragon’s prey is a major reason for their threat. These sea slugs only eat deadly, venomous creatures much larger than them — jellyfish and other toxic animals. One of their targets is the Portuguese man o’ war. Yes, really.

Blue dragons latch on to the giant organism and feed on the nematocyst cells. The venom is stored at the tips of its external gills. Eating such a deadly diet allows them to maintain this hue — hence why they are called blue dragons.

paulhypnos, Flickr

The stolen venom is concentrated in one spot, meaning the blue dragon can wield an even more painful weapon than other better-known venomous creatures. This is why Hunter is lucky he used a beach toy to show off his catch.

Doug Perrine

Thanks to Hunter, PINS shared a post about the dangers of blue dragons on their Facebook page. “… don’t let their size fool you, they have a defense worthy of the name dragon,” PINS said.

“If you see a dragon in the park, be amazed as they are a rare find, but also keep your distance!” PINS said, “A lot of people are finding them lately. That will often happen with animals that a bunch will wash up at the same time.”

Will Dickey

According to David Hicks from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, “We don’t see a lot of them, but they are reported from Texas. That community of organisms … they kind of go around in masses of water. If you see one, you see 1,000 of them.”

In 2017, a group of blue dragons was spotted along the U.S. coast. And, again, the creatures returned in 2020. This is when Hunter and his family ran across the mysterious animal. Still, some families go hunting for them!

Hunter Lane/Padre Island National Seashore

If you want to see these sea slugs in the wild, you’ll need to travel to Australia, South Africa, or Mozambique. They can randomly appear in other areas much further from these localities — like the U.S. for instance.

Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Getting stung by a man o’ war is a painful experience — touching something that can concentrate this already painful venom into one spot is a recipe for disaster. Yet, kids are still messin’ with creatures in the sand.

As soon as the Dickinson family — comprised of Adam, Eve, and their two kids — stepped on to Auckland, New Zealand’s Pakiri Beach, they saw this purple blob in the sand. They had no idea what it was — or what it was capable of. But they were curious.

Adam and Eve Dickinson via News Hub

So naturally, the two kids, Sofia and Lucas, sprinted over to it with all the reckless abandon of children on a mission to satisfy their curiosities about something wildly unsafe and potentially dangerous.

Adam and Eve Dickinson via Newshub

This concerned Adam and Eve, who didn’t wish to see their children succumb to a purple, potentially poisonous beach blob, so they, too, approached the mysterious thing in the sand.

Eve Dickinson / Facebook

“My initial thought was ‘don’t let my kids touch it,'” Adam told the news sometime after the ordeal. With the family of four now all gathered around the mystery substance, they all echoed the same question: what the heck was it?

The Dickinson’s launched an informal investigation. The first thing they noticed? The purple blob was pulsating. Moving. Like Frankenstein’s monster, it was alive.

“It almost looked like a load of muscles contracting,” Adam recalled. “It was pretty incredible and really hard to describe.” Meanwhile, the kids were reminded of something oddly specific when they looked at the blob.

Lucas told his mom the creature looked like a volcano; it had, after all, sloping sides and what looked like a crater of bubbling purple lava. This was obviously no volcano, so the Dickinsons investigated further.

Despite their initial concerns about the pulsating creature, the family — to our benefit — proceeded to place check after check on the list of things you should not do to foreign, potentially dangerous things…

Eve Dickinson / Facebook

For instance, Lucas and Sofia blew on the thing. To the kids’ delights, the more they blew on the creature, the more it moved, confirming, yep, it was very much alive and was very much aware of outside stimuli.

With this understanding, the Dickinsons grabbed a stick and prodded the blob. Sure enough, Eve recalled the creature moved even more when the stick prodded its meat.

While the kids poked, prodded, and blew on the creature, Adam and Eve noted something peculiar about the beach: tons of jellyfish were scattered across the shore. This answered the question, right?

2cycle2gether / flickr

See, for a moment, they thought their mystery creature was just a jellyfish washed ashore. But still, their pulsating friend looked nothing like the other jellyfish. Maybe their guy was just upside down or something?

So with their stick, the Dickinsons flipped over some of the other jellyfish that’d washed up on the shore, hoping this would prove their creature was just a really big, really upside-down jellyfish.

But even upside-down, the landlocked jellyfish still looked nothing like the captivating creature that had so entranced the family. They were back to square one, so, eventually, the marine experts chimed in with answers.

iNaturalist

A member of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Diana Macpherson, knew almost instantly what this “common” creature was.

The purple, pulsating blob that had entranced Adam, Eve, Sofia, and Lucas on the jellyfish-laden shores of Pakiri Beach was, according to Diana, the largest species of jellyfish found in New Zealand waters: the lion’s mane jellyfish!

These huge jellyfish can grow as big as seven feet wide with tentacles a hundred feet long. Those long tentacles give it a sort of lion’s mane — hence the creature’s name.

As it turned out, Adam was right to want to keep his kids away initially. While these jellyfish aren’t deadly, their tentacles carry toxins that can deliver some serious welts to those unfortunate enough to get caught in the “mane.”

This particular jellyfish was also a bit of an oddity. Normally, lion’s manes wash up on shore in the summer or spring, when plankton start blooming. This one washed up in autumn.

iNaturalist

Whatever the odds of a lion’s mane washing up in September, the Dickinsons were delighted with the experience. “It was incredible,” Adam recalled. However, this unusual lion’s mane is far from the strangest thing to be washed ashore…

Sneakers: On the Dutch island of Terschelling, citizens were startled early one morning when they discovered thousands of running shoes covering the sand. Apparently, a cargo ship lost one of its containers during a violent storm, turning the beach into an outdoor Foot Locker.

Piano: One afternoon, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, someone came across a piano. Although the body was perfectly intact, it no longer played. No one ever found out who it belonged to.

Rubber ducks: Back in 1992, a massive shipping crate full of hundreds of thousands of rubber ducks fell overboard in the middle of the ocean, and still to this day, massive amounts of these bath-time toys still occasionally wash up on the shores of various countries.

Giant LEGOs: Not much is known about the Dutch painter and sculptor who calls himself Ego Leonard other than he works with large-scale fiberglass LEGO art. These oversized toys occasionally find themselves on shores all over the world.

Perfectly formed snowballs: A Siberian beach was found blanketed in perfectly formed snowballs in 2016. This was due to an extremely rare phenomena causing pieces of ice to roll up and then become smoothly polished by the elements. Did someone say epic snowball fight?

Giant eyeball: In 2012, someone came across a giant eyeball while walking along the shore in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. People naturally wanted to believe it came from some kind of undiscovered sea monster, but scientists determined it belonged to a massive swordfish.

E.T.: One afternoon, a person thought they saw a lifeless body floating in the shallow ocean water. Upon further inspection, it was actually a life-sized doll of E.T.! Talk about discovering something alien!

Bananas: In 2007, six enormous crates of bananas fell overboard from a ship traveling to Cuba. Almost all of them somehow made the long journey to the shores of Terschelling in the Netherlands. Yep, that’s right. The same place that was the recipient of those thousands of pairs of running shoes. Weird…

Inscribed rocks: While people were taking a stroll along a beach in Oakville, Ontario, they came across a stack of rocks with inspirational and personal messages inscribed on them. Did whoever wrote them ever find their soulmate?

Mechanical hand: Someone dropped a mechanical prosthetic hand into the water near Staten Island, New York, and it quickly washed ashore. Who did it belong to? Apparently, one very clumsy robot.

SpaceX debris: On the beach of Elbow Bay in the Bahamas, people were in shock when they found massive chunks of metal lying in the shallow waters. Where did they come from? They were pieces of one of SpaceX Falcon 9’s crashed rockets.

Intact shipwreck: This ship, called Navagio, is a tourist attraction in Greece. It was built in 1937 and was used to smuggle cigarettes. After it was destroyed in a massive storm while trying to flee the Greek Navy in the 1980s, it eventually washed ashore on a beach in Navagio Bay.

Strange gelatinous blobs: Throughout 2015, about a billion of these weird gelatinous blobs of jelly called velella washed up on west coast shores of the United States. As dramatic and bizarre looking as the incident was, marine biologists actually said it happens roughly once every three to six years.

Doritos: On the beaches of North Carolina one morning, a massive shipping container full of Doritos washed ashore. Thousands of bags of the popular snack were strewn all over the sand, much to the delight of the hungry beachgoers.

Flyswatters: In 2012, off the coast of Alaska, a cargo ship lost several crates of flyswatter with college sports teams’ insignia printed on them. Insects beware, Notre Dame is coming for you…

Harley-Davidson motorcycle: After a devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011, one man’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle was swept out to sea. Incredibly, it was found 5,000 miles away on a beach in British Columbia!

Dead birds: Roughly 6,000 deceased waterfowl washed up on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada. Scientists believed they all consumed botulism-laced fish, and although die-offs of large numbers of birds isn’t extremely unusual, the number of waterfowl had scientists quite startled.

Drugs: In 2013, off the coast of Japan, someone found six backpacks stuffed with packages of cocaine. The total weight of the narcotics was 78 kilograms, and police estimated the find to be worth $70 million!

Sea mine: When one family came upon this mystery object at the beach, they initially thought it was some kind of buoy that made its way onto the land. In reality, however, it was actually a World War II-era mine!

Giant pipes: Early one morning in August 2017, beach walkers in Norfolk, England, were greeted with massive sections of metal pipes. Some of them were as long as 1,500 feet and eight feet in diameter! They had reportedly broken off a Norwegian tug boat after it collided with an Icelandic container ship on its way to Algeria.

Recommended From Honest To Paws

Stay up to date on the
latest trending stories!

like our facebook page!