You want the strange, you want the unusual, you want the deadly? Well you won’t be disappointed with this beast and a true monster it is. Disguised to us humans by a truly beautiful body form and amazing colouration. Just looking at the animal, you have would admire it, even fall in love with it, and at a few centimetres long what a lovely baby you have found indeed… that is until you touched it!
Let me introduce you to Glaucus atlanticus or the blue dragon.
Rarely seen by us – the dragon is only evident if we get a prevailing wind for a week or so, blowing the surface waters in one direction, for the dragon is a true wanderer of the oceans, a member of the planktonic community (plankton – drifting life) unable to swim against the currents it goes where the sea and currents take it. The species is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures being equally at home in the tropics as it is in the temperate seas, circumnavigating the entire globe.
A floater! Our dragon spends its entire life floating on the surface of the sea, with no effort at all as the air sac next to its stomach keeps it afloat, which is where it wants to be for we have an active hunter on our hands. It’s feather like cerata which extend out from the body act as great paddles when prey is in sight. The prey doomed, it too a member of the plankton can only drift so the dragon soon catches up, latches on and devours the helpless Portuguese man o’ war, not a jellyfish but a colony of individual animals suspended beneath the float. The dragon feeds and feeds engulfing the prey but also selecting body parts for a new job.
It’s well known the man o’ war packs a powerful punch in the form of painful stings, this is venom contained in a nematocyst the sting cell, with a harpoon contained under hydrostatic pressure. Touch the hair on the cell and out fires the deadly venom filled harpoon. Yet somehow the trigger is not activated, the cell is passed through the stomach of the dragon and relocated to the extremities of the cerata where it confers protection to our beast. This is why you should be aware if you are lucky enough to see one floating past, touch and the pain, well you won’t forget it.
Evolution has allowed our baby to be beautiful in shape but also coloration, the amazing blue underside which always points upwards as our baby floats upside down, is a fantastic predator avoidance colour as birds would find it hard to see. The sliver/grey true dorsal side floating down into the abyss will blend in nicely with the sea surface avoiding being a silhouette and picked off by fish.
Our dragon the small perfect predator, the prey cannot escape, body parts utilised in the predator’s defence, perfect colouration, a very beautiful yet deadly beast indeed. I am just glad it’s only 4 – 5 cm long and not a big animal.