A beachgoer stumbled upon a "beautiful" yet "creepy" sea creature on the sand during a walk on Sunday and Aussies have been swept up in the mystery of what it is — with several experts struggling to identify it.
The discovery was made by a resident in Broome who kept her distance but snapped an image of the purple and white scaled creature measuring 13 centimetres in diameter, with its tentacles tangled among one another. Aussies likened it to "Medusa's wig" and marvelled at how "majestic" yet menacing it looked, with many suggesting it was best the walker didn't get too close.
"It's too pretty to be safe. Nature tends to make the worst things beautiful," one person remarked.
Tentacles 'wave' in search of food
After several marine biologists admitted they were stumped by the discovery the creature was finally identified as a striped or Cockburn Sound anemone. They are not known to frequent the waters of Western Australia but it's "not surprising" it was there given they inhabit waters around Japan and the Philippines as well as the Great Barrier Reef.
"They occur in sandy and muddy seabeds. I’ve seen them in waters up to around 20 metres deep but also in very shallow waters," Marine ecologist Mike Van Keulen told Yahoo News. "The tentacles are quite active and can wave around when searching for food, which can include small fish."
Anemone can inflict 'nasty' sting on humans
Van Keulen said Cockburn Sound anemone inflict painful stings "similar to a burn" which remain sore up to 36 hours after contact is made — causing blisters within the first few hours and scars which last months.
"It’s a nasty one... secondary infection of course is a real problem with any marine sting and if not properly dealt with, [it] can lead to wounds that take a very long time to heal," he said.
He explained that symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the sting and include "nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever and even shock".
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