Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Beautiful Blue Glaucus Sea Slug

If you asked a child to invent a creature and describe its lifestyle, you might wind up with something like this blue glaucus sea slug. According to Blair and Dawn Witherington's book, Florida's Living Beaches, "The blue glaucus floats upside down (foot up) due to an air bubble in its stomach. " Cathie Katz spoke of the blue glaucus in her Nature of Florida's Oceans book thusly: "A glaucus is a mollusk with no shell. The inch-long glaucus floats upside down, clinging to the underside surface of the water. They eat the tentacles of toxic creatures such as blue buttons, absorbing the poisonous cells to use for their own defense. "

Some folks walking the beach yesterday found this little beauty. Fortunately for us, their efforts to identify their find eventually led to Margie Mitchell. Margie's job as Beach Coordinator for the City of Cocoa Beach frequently involves rescuing distressed birds, and she was on her way to the Florida Wildlife Hospital with a couple of birds when she received the call. She detoured to the house where the USO (unidentified swimming object!) was being kept in a bait pail and took the pail with its occupant to the Wildlife Hospital to be photographed. She also called Ed Perry and Jim Angy and described this blue creature to them - they identified it as a blue glaucus sea slug. (Ed also reminded us of the entry in Cathie's book.) Margie eventually returned the little guy to its finder, who named it Fred and said he planned to set it up in a salt water aquarium. (Photo courtesy of Sue Small, Florida Wildlife Hospital)

Christopher Boykin is a sea-beaning friend who works for the State of Florida on the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative. His comment when he saw the photo expresses my thoughts exactly: "I’m in love with this creature. So cool. It looks like an alien. The Latin name is Glaucus atlanticus. Glaucus was a Greek sea god, and how cool would it be to have the word atlanticus in your name? What a freakin’ neat sea critter!"

Update: Margie uploaded the photo of the blue glaucus to a List Serve, and amongst the comments returned was the following from Judie C. , with a link to a wonderful photo gallery: "What a fabulous find! You might like to have a look at:
and then click on Surface Drifters. Peter Parks has done a lot of the photography here in Bermuda, and we all have a great time searching the beaches and floating Sargassum for these amazing critters."


David McRee, --BeachHunter said...

It is beautiful. And such a nice sharp photo too. I often have people email me photos of strange creatures they've found on the beach, but the photos are invariably taken with cell phones and are usually less than in focus.

Cactus Jack Splash said...

I have never seen a sea slug before. It sure is a cute little thing. I hope it does well in its new home.