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Venomous 'blue dragons' washing ashore on Coastal Bend beaches

Posted at 10:27 AM, Apr 19, 2022

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Corpus Christi officials are warning people over the presence of venomous marine life in the water or near the shore.

The city told KRIS they became aware of an abundance of jellyfish on the beach prompting them to display the purple flags over the weekend.

Plenty of Portuguese man-o-war are washing up along Coastal Bend beaches, but beach goers are also noticing another venomous sea creature known as the "blue dragon."

Marine scientist Jace Tunnell said they're basically snails without shells.

"Just take pictures, don't touch it because they could release those stinging cells," Tunnell said.

Tunnell added that the blue dragon normally lives on the surface of the ocean and can be found at nearly any beach in the tropical and subtropical latitudes.

"The only way they get blown up on the shore is if the wind is really strong coming in and the conditions are right," Tunnell said. "What they're feeding on is around and we do have man-o-wars right now."

Blue dragons eat the venomous Portuguese man-o-war and stores its prey's stinging cells which are used as a defense mechanism and people can experience significant pain if stung by one of these tiny animals. Tunnell said these blue-colored sea creatures first appeared on the Texas Coast in 2020.

Maggie Dick said she was unaware of the meaning behind the flying purple flag but mentioned seeing this marine life.

"We've seen those washed up and we commented we did not want to be stung," said Dick.

Tunnell said the pain and treatment is similar to that of a man-o-war sting, though rare, it can be life-threatening.

"If it stings you, you want to treat it similar to what you would with a man-o-war," Tunnell said. "Putting vinegar on it, then putting it in hot water wherever you are stung, that's the best treatment to do."

Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Interim Assistant Director Lisa Oliver said those stung by these creatures can ask a lifeguard for help and they will treat it.

People can also ask any beach operations staff and they will call a lifeguard if one isn't near. Anyone having an allergic reaction can call 911.