By Julia Wade
A local family was taking a Sunday evening stroll along the shoreline of Te Arai on January 21, when they came across quite a spectacular creature from the sea.
Spotting what they initially thought to be blue bottle jellyfish, on closer inspection Angie Hunt, her partner Alan and 8-year-old son, Seth, discovered a more unusual and exotic species.
“There were numerous blue splotches in the sand close to the waterline that looked like ink splashes,” Angie says. “We were looking at the various ones trying to figure out what they were, they looked like eggs of some sort when I came across this beautiful creature. It seemed to be alive but not moving around much.”
The family had stumbled upon ‘Glaucus atlanticus’, a ‘nudibranch’ or soft-bodied marine gastropod mollusc, more commonly known as Blue Angel, Blue Dragon or Blue Sea Slug.
Although only measuring up to a mere three centimetres at maturity, they possess a set of serrated teeth and are prolific hunters of the venomous Portugese Man o’ war and other jelly-like fish.
Although similar to another smaller species which reside in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Blue Dragon is not normally seen in New Zealand waters, favouring more temperate and tropical waters around the coastlines of Australia, South Africa, Europe and Mozambique, occasionally found washed up on beaches.
Those who cannot resist picking up the exquisite sea slugs may receive an extremely painful and possibly dangerous sting.
“I was unsure what it was so did not want to touch it, luckily as I later found out it can be toxic and can sting you,” Angie says “We took a photo as it was something we had never seen before and was so beautiful.”
Beautiful but potentially harmful, Mangawhai was visited by Blue sea dragons at Te Arai in recent weeks. – PHOTO/Angie Hunt