Beware the Blue Dragon
If you're a surfer on the East Coast of Australia you'll know that bluebottles are the scourge of summer. Not morning seabreezes, month-long flat spells, or swarms of kooks, but the dreaded bluebottle.
Usually blowing in on the back of north-east seabreezes and storming the beach in small armies, bluebottles appear harmless but pack a mean punch. Their tentacles, which are mostly invisible in water, can stretch out for over two metres and each one is laced with poisonous barbs that can cause a range of reactions from mild discomfort to a full blown, blue-in-the-face, allergic response.
If bluebottles aren't bad enough it appears there's a new kid in town.
Swellnet forecaster, Craig Brokensha, was surfing at Curl Curl on Sydney's Northern Beaches recently when he spotted a strange looking critter (see image below and enlarge it for full eye-popping effect). Being a curious scientist Craig yelled, "What the fuck!" and hightailed it to the beach.
After he'd calmed down Craig went back and took a closer look at the strange creatures. They were about an inch long and like bluebottles seemed to travel in swarms. He didn't get close enough to find out if they delivered a sting or not.
Later, while researching the creatures, Craig found they went by the name of Glaucus Atlanticus, or Blue Dragon, a member of the nudibranch family, and they are more commonly found in tropical waters. Their habitat stretches from Hawaii to the Phillippines and the shores of northern Australia. The odd one will also surface near South Africa, and also, apparently, Sydney.
Further reading brought news that Blue Dragons may be a saviour of sorts as they prey on bluebottles. Blue Dragons, you see, are immune to bluebottle toxin so they consume them whole, doing their bit to clear the water of the summer scourge.
But then came the kicker, after eating the bluebottle the Blue Dragon will absorb its toxin and store it in the ends of its fingers. This enables the Blue Dragon to "produce a much more powerful and deadly sting than the Man of War [bluebottle] due to its ability to store the poison."
Having not been stung by a Blue Dragon no-one at Swellnet knows how bad the pain is. We're also not too keen to find out. If you see any in the water give them a wide berth.