Blue dragons (Glaucus atlanticus), are part of a group of creatures known as holodermen or sea slugs. They are also known as blue sea slugs, blue angels, and sea swallows. There are several similar species of blue dragons in the genus Glaucus. These creatures swim freely in temperate and tropical ocean currents around the world, especially in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It is not known how many blue dragons there are, as they are small and difficult to quantify.
Blue dragons grow to about 3 centimeters in length, but they eat creatures many times their own size. They do this with radulas, which resemble a serrated knife blade along the creature’s chitinous jaw. Chitin is the same hard substance that forms the exterior of ants and crabs. Learn more about these bright blue aquatic creatures.
Fast Facts About The Blue Dragon
Common name: Blue dragon or blue angel Scientific name: Glaucus atlanticus
Average life span in the wild: one month to one year
Red List Status IUCN: Not assessed
Current population: Unknown
6 Facts About The Blue Dragon:
Blue Dragon uses color to camouflage
This eponymous coloration is not just for display. The sea slug uses the coloration to its advantage when it swims on the surface of the ocean. Its blue side is facing upward to conceal it against the blue of the sea, and its silvery side is facing downward to hide it against the bright surface of the water. It is difficult for predators to see blue dragons because of these spots of color.
They can sting hard
This species of sea slug is not defenseless because it swims. If its camouflage does not conceal it from potential predators, its next line of defense is a stinger. However, the blue dragon itself is not venomous. It harbors stinging nematocysts created by the creatures it feeds on, including poisonous siphonophores and portcullis. These cells accumulate and concentrate, so when touched, the blue dragon can release these stinging cells to deliver an even more powerful blow than the Portuguese ship.
Blue Dragon form groups called blue flotillas
Groups of blue dragons swim among the blue-colored siphonophores they eat, creating formations known as “blue flotillas. This behavior makes sense for foraging and mating but creates conditions conducive to ocean winds tossing them ashore. Blue dragons curl up in clubs to protect themselves when they are slammed by the waves and tossed ashore. And if they are thrown onto the sand, their venom remains active even after death. This means that people who pick up the creatures or step on them experience their fiery bite.
They don’t make good pets
The bright blue appearance of the blue dragon makes some people think about adding one to their home aquarium. Fortunately, these creatures are not always available for purchase because they do not make good pets. Because of their dietary needs, it is impossible to find food for them at the pet store. Another, more obvious problem is the powerful sting. Even the most experienced aquarists do not take the risk of introducing these hypodermic clams into their aquariums.
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They are hermaphrodites
All blue dragons are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. When two blue dragons mate, they carefully curve their penises in long, curved, almost S-shaped curves. Their long anatomy protects them from their partner’s bites. This mating results in a chain of 20 eggs, which the slug lays on floating objects such as snags or floating carcasses of its prey.
Blue dragons appear in unexpected places
Blue dragons are being spotted for the first time in many places around the world. This may be because warming oceans combined with increased storm activity are causing them to swim farther away and/or to different shorelines. It could also be due to cyclical changes in the populations of Portuguese shoals.
What happens if you touch a blue dragon? Blue dragons would not hesitate to sting if they felt threatened, and their bite is venomous not because they are poisonous themselves, but because they eat venomous creatures such as the portcullis. Being bitten by a blue dragon would be excruciating and would likely cause scarring on exposed areas of the skin.
Are blue dragons rare? Although they are infrequent with humans, it is unclear how rare blue dragons are because they are so tiny and therefore difficult to quantify in the vast open ocean. The species has not been assessed by the IUCN.
How is climate change affecting blue dragons? Blue dragons seem to be migrating to new regions, including the Gulf Coast in the United States, due to increased storm activity and rising water temperatures. Like most marine animals, these sea slugs are also suffering from ocean acidification, which can reduce the amount of food their prey eat.