Earlier this month, a Texas man filmed a strange creature he found on a beach. Not knowing what it was, he took a video and uploaded it to Reddit where he was instantly identified as a cute but poisonous creature: Glaucus atlanticus.

The creature has many common names, including petrel, blue sea slug, blue angel, and our personal favorite, the blue dragon. They were found near the water’s surface and washed up on beaches around the world. A TikTok user recently spotted one in Australia, and they’re becoming more common on beaches, likely due to warming waters and changing conditions. These Pokémon-like sea slugs are fast becoming a media darling, so let’s hide behind the paparazzi camera and learn more about the blue dragon.

How big is the blue dragon?

Although blue dragons are found all over the world, most people rarely catch a glimpse of them due to their size. Dragons conjure up images of majestic T-Rex-sized beasts, but if you’re an ancient knight sent to fight this blue dragon, your sword doesn’t need to be bigger than a toothpick. These slugs usually do not grow to more than 3 cm, or about the size of a grape.

What do blue dragons eat?

Always a feast of style, the blue dragon’s favorite food is the Portuguese O’War, another creature you don’t want to touch when you’re in the ocean. They may be 300 times bigger and poisonous than a blue dragon, but they can’t match the appetite of a blue dragon. A blue dragon has a tiny air bubble in its stomach that helps it float in the water. This allows them to basically crawl on underwater surfaces where Man O’War’s tentacles float. It then attacks with its jagged teeth, helping them dismember Man O’War and steal their venom in a shocking incident. Once eaten, they store the stinging cells that make Man O’War so painful at the ends of their tendril-like limbs. This video delves into how this incredible feat was accomplished:

Are blue dragons dangerous to humans?

Because blue dragons store the stinging cells of the Portuguese O’War, their stings may be several times worse than their siphon prey. Their venom remains active even after they die, so you should be careful not to pick up or step on anything you see on the beach. If you do get stung by a person, it’s likely to cause scarring and severe pain. So if you find these little beauties on a nearby coastline, it’s best not to try them and leave them behind.

Why are they so beautiful?

The bright blue helps them camouflage the brilliant colors of the ocean itself. The blue dragon spends a lot of time floating its belly up, revealing its brightest baby blue to anyone on the water, where it’s more likely to blend in with the brighter sunlight shadows above the waves. It’s a drab silver face-down that camouflages itself better with the darker shades found on the ocean floor.

Blue dragon against rocks in the oceanBlue dragon against rocks in the ocean
© Peter Wood/Wikimedia

How do blue dragons mate?

Do you find online dating difficult? When your body is full of siphon venom, try to find a mate. Blue dragons are hermaphrodites, which means they have male and female parts. They mate with a long S-shaped organ, which helps them put on it without touching each other’s stingy parts. This causes them to gently lay dozens of eggs on anything nearby, sometimes even on the corpse of their last meal!

Are blue dragons endangered?

These creatures are so small that reliable estimates of their populations are difficult. It’s like searching for a brilliant blue needle in a giant wet haystack. Therefore, it is difficult to know whether the number of blue dragons is increasing or decreasing. What is known is that the ranges you see blue dragons are changing. For the first time, researchers have found them in new places like Taiwan or Texas’ Padre Island National Seashore. This could be due to the effects of climate change on ocean temperatures, storms, the population of Portugal’s Man O’War, and more. Blue dragons prove that no animal is too small to feel the effects of our changing climate. Before it’s too late, you can help blue dragons and all creatures that depend on the ocean by taking action on the climate.

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