Tiny, Venomous Visitors Invade Texas Coast — Don’t Touch

If you’re moderately aware of general outdoor safety, you probably know to steer clear of bright, weird-colored things.

And if you are, you’re probably steering clear of Texas beaches right now. Because the state’s extensive Gulf Coast beaches are covered with tiny, electric blue creatures that will sting the Lone Star spirit right out of you.

Blue sea slugs (Glaucus atlanticus) are washing up on Texas shores in droves right now. The wayfaring creatures aren’t strong swimmers, so they simply end up wherever they end up. But when they get there, they can wreak havoc on anyone who strays too close.

The dragon-shaped marine invertebrates only grow to about an inch long. They pack such a punch because they feed on the toxins of other venomous ocean creatures, like the Portuguese Man o’ War.

A dead Portuguese Man O’ War washed up on a beach. Photo: Roberto La Rosa/Shutterstock


Borrows the venom of other creatures

Marine biologist Jace Tunnell explained that the jellyfish’s weapons — microscopic capsules loaded with coiled, barbed tubes full of venom — are useless against blue sea slugs. Instead, the slugs can store these cells in their fingerlike appendages for later use. If you’re unfortunate enough to make one of the little critters feel threatened, buckle up for a full dose.

“That’s what makes them so dangerous, since they can release the stinging cells all at one time,” Tunnell told The BBC. “It can be three times the intensity of a man-o-war.”

Tunnel said that one woman on South Padre Island reported seeing at least 60 of the slugs on shore. Their stings aren’t usually lethal. But Tunnell told Southern Living that deaths have occurred, describing stings in bad areas of the body, or individuals who react more strongly.

“I stepped on one on a beach in Australia as a child, and my father still has the scars on his hands from trying to help me,” he said.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.