Spring breakers first spotted blue dragons, or the Glaucus atlanticus sea slug, in early March 2024 on Texas beaches. Blue dragons are brightly colored blue and silver-gray sea slugs with a flat tapered body and blue stripes on their heads. 

Blue dragons spend their entire lives in open water and float upside down just under the surface of the water. They belong to the neuston ecosystem, which are organisms that live on the surface or attached on the underside of the surface of oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds and other aquatic surfaces. 

Terrestrial and marine life depend on the neuston ecosystem as an important food source. The blue dragon’s preferred prey are the blue button, by-the-wind-sailor, violet snail, and Portuguese man o’ war. They store the jelly fish’s stinging cells and are toxic. 

Why Are Blue Dragons Washing up on Shore?

The seasonal strong spring southeast winds blew thousands of these beautiful sea slugs ashore with help from the Gulf of Mexico’s ocean waves in 2024. The currents pull these weak swimmers along, so they go where the waves go. We rarely saw them until recent years and especially in 2024.

Blue dragon food sources linger way offshore normally. They are hard to quantify because they are so tiny. They are understudied, but recently, they are showing up more frequently on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Also, ocean acidification can reduce the amount of food their prey eats. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that “Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.”

How Venomous Is the Blue Sea Dragon?

Look at them and photograph them, but do not touch blue dragons. Blue dragons accumulate stinging nematocysts in sacs in their tentacles (finger-like appendages) by eating venomous siphonophores. Stinging siphonophores include the Portuguese man o’war. 

A blue dragon sting results in intense pain and its victims claim the sting feels like knives or needles scraping across their skin. Their sting can last up to an hour. Blue dragon stings can cause nausea, vomiting, disorientation, acute allergic contact dermatitis, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. They are not fatal. 

Jace Tunnell, the 2024 Director of Community Engagement at the Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, recently reported to multiple media outlets that, “That’s what makes them so dangerous. It’s concentrated, so it’s even worse than a man-o’-war sting.”

The blue dragon concentrates its collected stinging cells into a more powerful venom than the original prey’s venom they ingested and stored. Blue dragons are mollusks without a shell. They eat siphonophores, which are related to anemones, corals, and jellyfishes. Siphonophores are colonies of individual zooids (animals) attached to a shared gut and some of them sting. 

What Happens if You Get Stung by a Blue Sea Dragon?

Marine life officials in Galveston sent a warning ahead of Spring Break 2024 to be on the lookout for Blue Dragons washing on shore. If you accidentally step on one barefooted, the blue dragon can release all of its stinging cells at once, which is more painful than a single sting.

You know immediately if a blue dragon stings you, intense pain begins and can last up to three hours. You should try to find help. Some sources say to seek medical intention. Only in extreme cases, where someone has a severe allergic reaction to the sting, can the blue dragon can kill a person. 

What to Do if You Are Stung by a Blue Dragon

Medical professionals advise people with allergic reactions to go to an emergency room or urgent care facility. The most common advice is to pour or soak the sting in vinegar or warm water. Jace Tunnell, at the Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico Studies, recently reported,

“Should you get stung, vinegar and hot water are the best remedy for the pain, but that’s for mild reactions. In very rare cases, there have been people who have died from them. If you get stung in the right spot, and you’re not someone who can handle a sting, and you have a bad allergic reaction, something bad is going to happen.” 

Texas Blue Dragons FAQ

Are Blue Dragons Harmless?

No, they are not harmless at noted above. 

Can You Pick up a Blue Dragon?

No, you should never touch or pick up a blue dragon as noted above.

Blue Dragon Facts

Blue dragons camouflage by using their colors. It has a blue side and a silvery gray side. It floats with its blue side facing the surface to camouflage underwater prey. Its silver side faces down and hides it from the water’s bright surface. 

Blue dragons float collectively in groups called blue fleets amongst the siphonophores. This increases them to the exposed surface area, which creates favorable conditions for winds to them ashore. This also corresponds with feeding and mating. They curl up in balls when waves catch them to protect themselves.

When blue dragons become beached, their venom remains active, even when they die.

Blue dragons do not make good aquarium additions. Their appearance is alluring, but you cannot purchase their dietary requirements anywhere. 

All blue dragons are hermaphrodites with male and female reproductive organs. When mating, their long anatomy keeps them from stinging their partner. 

Blue dragons lay strings of 20 eggs on floating objects such like driftwood or the floating carcass of their prey.

Actually seeing blue dragons is considered rare, but the recently beached blue dragons on the Texas coast corresponds to blue dragons blowing onto beaches for the first time in numerous locations worldwide. 

Blue dragons are tiny creatures. Blue dragons reach an average length of just over an inch, from their noses to the tips of their tails. 

Blue dragons eat prey 300+ times bigger than they are. Their favorite meal is the Portuguese man o’war. Man o’wars have soft tops and long tendrils as long as 165 feet. 

Kendall Davis
Author: Kendall Davis

Author: Kendall Davis Company: Lumini Services Kendall currently lives on the shores of Lake Texoma in Texas. She traveled across two-thirds of the U.S. for many years camping at lakes, rivers, and three oceans before motels and hotels if at all possible, and she continuously saw God's presence in nature. Writing for Lakehub allows Kendall to share her experience with God's creations. https://kdavis1836.wixsite.com/luminiwrites

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