Saturday, 18 August 2012

Weird and Wonderful: Glaucus atlanticus, the real life Pokémon

Tom Stubbs

This peculiar creature has only recently become famous and many people have still not even heard of it. The most amazing feature of this animal is its stunning appearance, looking like a cross between a dragon and a Pokémon! In fact Glaucus atlanticus is a sea slug, in the group Gastropoda, that also includes snails and land slugs. G.atlanticus is actually rather small reaching a maximum size of around 3cm. Despite its small size this miniature dragon mimic has many amazing characteristics. They use gas bubbles in their stomachs to float in the water column and pursue prey using appendages to swim. Amazingly G.atlanticus feeds on hydrozoans, including the infamous deadly Portuguese Man O’ War. They have the ability to harness poison from the stings of prey and use this as a defensive sting themselves, which unlike most sea slugs, can hurt humans. Finally, G.atlanticus is also a hermaphrodite possessing the reproductive organs of both sexes!

Spread the word about this amazing little critter and check out the video below: