Narooma mum Bobbi Lee is issuing a warning after she and her daughter encountered a row of beautiful but poisonous blue dragon sea slugs washed up on Narooma Surf Beach on Wednesday night.
“Apparently they have quite a little sting to then so maybe a heads up for parents. I know my daughter wanted to touch them, lucky I didn't let her!” Ms Lee said.
These spectacular and rare creatures actually absorb the poison of other creatures and pack a quite a punch.
According to Wikipedia, Glaucus atlanticus – common names include the sea swallow, blue angel, blue glaucus, blue dragon, blue sea slug and blue ocean slug – is a species of small, blue sea slug, apelagic aeolid nudibranch, a shell-less gastropod mollusk in the family Glaucidae.
These sea slugs are pelagic: they float upside down on the surface tension of the water, where they are carried along by the winds and ocean currents. Glaucus atlanticus is camouflaged: 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 silvery surface of the sea.
Glaucus atlanticus feeds on other pelagic creatures, including the venomous cnidarian, the Portuguese Man o' War. This sea slug stores stinging nematocysts from the cnidarian within its own tissues as defense against predation. Humans handling the slug may receive a very painful and potentially dangerous sting.
There have also been numerous bluebottles wash up on Narooma area beaches including Mystery Bay in recent days.
UPDATE, APRIL 2, 2016: Seasoned Eurobodalla marine watcher Jenny Edwards says there are two species of sea slug on our coast at this time
She said they both “store the stinging cells of bluebottles in the ends of the finger-like projections”.
“They may give a sting but are certainly not life-threatening to us,” Ms Edwards said.
“There are two Glaucus species that were along our shores this summer.”
She said Glaucus atlanticus had a longer tail than Glaucus marginatus.