Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nature Most Wanted - The Blue Dragon

In the world there are plenty of animal species. So many to embarrass the human race, at least when it comes to quantity and variety. But what about some of the most mysterious species around. Are you sure to know what kind of strange and wonderful creatures live in the deepest oceans and in the highest skies? This new section of Snooping Around is here to take you to an extraordinary journey to discover some of the most unknown animals nature has ever created. Snoopers, welcome to “Nature Most Wanted”.

Let’s start with the bluest waters. Hidden underneath the world there is a little sea slug, floating upside down on the surface tension of the water. Carried along by winds and ocean currents. It’s the Glaucus Atlanticus, also known as Blue Dragon. This tiny creature is known by lots of names like sea swallow, blue angel, blue glaucus and blue ocean slug . The scientific name, Glaucus Atlanticus,  has been given after the Greek god of the sea, Glaucus. This sea god was forced to live in the sea for eternity.

The Portoguese Man-O'-War, the Blue Dragon's favorite meal
The creature was first studied by Forster in the 17th Century. Blue dragon was once thought to be a marine insect and was later classified as marine gastropod in 19th Century. This little shell-less mollusk lives in the waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean. What keeps it floating on the surface of the water is the air bubble that it fills in its belly. Anyway the wind blows, it takes this little creature along with it. So you might think all it does is relaxing. Well, this is what it actually does, but this little boy should not be underestimated. In fact, beside its carefree behavior,  this creature is not that harmless. This 3 cm long invertebrate is known for its appetite for hydrozoans (the same group of jellyfish. Discover some Random Facts about Jellyfish here) and its most favorite ones are the most poisonous, Portuguese Man-O’-War (maybe it’s just me, but to me this poisonous jellyfish looks like little a plastic bag).
Two Blue Dragons attacking a Man-O'-War

The Portuguese Man-O’-War are known to be fatal for human and its sting is extremely painful, but the little Blue Dragon can swallow it without getting hurt. How can it do that? Well, inside its skin are hard disks that acts like a barrier and it also releases mucus that forms a protective layer against stings.


But its skills are not so briefly limited. Another fantastic trick this creature can perform is storing the poison of its enemies for future uses. The poison is sucked in by cerata, which are finger like structures sticking out from its body. Inside this structures there are sacs called cnidosacs, where the poison is kept and then used against other predators. This is one of the cleverest and most vengeful strategies I’ve ever heard of ! Scientists say that the Glaucus can have more deadly sting than the Man-O’-War depending on the amount of venom it has collected in its body. So it can be quite a bad neighbor. This can be a good method for feeding, but sure the Blue Dragon has no mercy for its friends. It has been known to cannibalize as well in situations where there not enough prey available to feed on.

Wait...this cute (I use that term loosely) animal has got so many other skills. It’s also feared because of its capability of fooling predators by camouflaging. The exact name of its technique is countershading. As mentioned before, this creature floats upside down meaning ventral side up and dorsal side down wards. This sounds a little bit weird. Why living your life upside down? How does it help? The color is the answer. As you can see in the pictures, this animal is astonishing. Bright skin and a wonderful shape, just like a magical creature. The ventral side is bright blue which helps it blend into the ocean’s surface while the grayish dorsal side merges with the inner surface of the water. This trick is used for both swimming and flying predators. Maybe you were nearby one of these Dragons but you didn't notice him. He is very good at hide ‘n’ seek!

A Blue Dragon attacking a Porpita, another kind of jellifish.
Now for the brutal part. These sea slugs are also known to be Hermaphrodites. When two sea slugs mate, they both produce egg strings. They lay their eggs on driftwood and most of the times on the skeletons of their prey. And before the air sac is fully developed, the young Blue Dragons cannot live on the surface of the water. Once they have learnt to float on the surface, they instinctively learn their colors and they decide the right way to flip sides. This creature can barely live on land. In fact when out of water these creatures tend to roll themselves turning into a spiny ball. As soon as they get back into the water they open up again.


This is a very rare animal, so keep your eyes open and be careful if you find one of these magically dangerous creatures.

Only because it's very small, it doesn't mean it cannot hurt you. It's completely the opposite. Smaller means Deadliest. Remember it O.O

6 comments:

  1. Troppo strano questo animale (lumaca?). Ma visto nè sentito!

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    1. Uno strano gasteropode...è proprio vero!! ;)

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  2. Interesting beautiful blue creatures. Kudos to you for finding them and featuring them here.

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    1. Everyone was posting pics of this animal, so I thought "Why not let people know what they're watching?"

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  3. I had not seen these pics floting around (sorry for the pun). Beautiful animal.

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    1. So glad I've let you discovered such a fantastic animal ;)

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