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What are these creatures? © Gary Bell/Minden PicturesJoin Our GIFs Group
No, this isn"t a still image from a sci-fi space opera. We"re offshore of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, watching a Glaucus atlanticus, aka "sea swallow" or "blue sea dragon," snack on the poisonous tentacles of a Porpita porpita, aka "blue button." At the tips of the blue button"s tentacles are stinging cells called nematocysts, but the venom doesn"t deter the sea swallow. Instead, once the sea swallow ingests the blue button"s poison, it stores the venom in the tips of its own feather-like fingers called papillae. Would-be predators should think twice before biting the sea swallow. The poison concentrated in its papillae can kill a predator in seconds. If you come across either of these creatures washed ashore, don"t touch! While the stings aren"t deadly to humans, they can cause skin irritation.