Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ocean Blues And Purples


An Update: In the post below I mentioned I went to Mona Vale Beach yesterday to look for Sea Lizards. This morning there was an alleged shark attack at the very same beach:  Sydney Morning Herald

This report was in our local paper, the Manly Daily, about a strange looking creature seldom seen in Sydney. For non-Australians, the article mentions Bluebottles, which are very common at our beaches: they float on the surface of the ocean, looking like small blue inflatables. They have long thin tentacles underwater, which on contact to flesh cause a strong stinging sensation, it's as if you're whipped. I still have scars from an incident some 20 years ago, when I was stung for the first time, and developed two lines of blisters on my bicep, which eventually started looking like tattoos, and later on, scars.

Manly Daily, February 5, 2010, by Peter Bodgin:

"RECENT visitors to the northern beaches may have noticed a few unusual tourists in the water lately: they are hermaphrodites, floating upside down on inflated, gas-filled stomachs, and eating blue bottles.

The sea lizards, or blue sea slugs, have invaded local waters recently, floating south and inland on consistent onshore winds, following the blue bottles on which they feed.

Oceanworld Manly life sciences manager Rob Townsend said the aquatic creatures were not uncommon as they could be found wherever blue bottles drifted, although sea lizards were generally found in warmer waters.

“They tend to travel on the winds more than the tides, unlike a lot of sea animals,” he said.

Two similar species of the sea lizards can be found following the blue bottles, the larger Glaucus atlanticus, which can be up to 6cm long, and smaller Glaucilla marginata, which are typically under 35mm.

But before anyone proclaims the creatures as heroes for saving swimmers the angst of blue bottle stings, Mr Townsend warns the sea lizards can pack a punch of their own.

“They don’t bite, but they do eat the blue bottle stinging cells ... that’s what gives them their blue colour.”

Glaucus feed on blue bottle tentacles, the parts of the creatures that carry the most potent “nematocysts”, using the toxin as a means of defence by passing the poison to its skin.

No matter what their effects, the sea lizards have a fan in Freshwater’s Robert Gunn, whose young son Noah found a number washed up on their local beach. “They’re interesting creatures - they look like either something from the bottom of the ocean, or extras from Avatar,” said Mr Gunn, who took the photo above."

After reading the article I decided to try my luck if I could find one to take photos of. I went down to Mona Vale Beach, and found lot's of stranded Bluebottles (as in the next photo below), but no Sea Lizards, unfortunately. However, I came across purplish shells containing a gas-filled 'balloon' protruding from inside a shell. I'm afraid I don't have any information yet on what's going there.

Portuguese Man o'War (Bluebottle, Physalia Physalis, with a metre long tentacle):


This is the mystery creature, with snow flakepe 'decoration':

This one's got even smaller creatures attached to it:

The following photos I've taken earlier, included now for their blue colour:

By-the-wind Sailor (Velella Velella)

Blue Button (Porpita Porpita)

An eye of a dead Puffer Fish:


Jari Silomäki
From My Weather Diary: Sydney to Cairns. There is heaven between me and the ground, 2004
Chromogenic colour print mounted on aluminium, edition 1/10, 28 x 28 cm
Esa Jaske Collection


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