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Jacksonville Beach has influx of sea butterflies

5:57 PM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- Over the last few weeks many beach goers have sent First Coast News emails and given us phone calls, wondering what the needle like shells are that have washed ashore.

"They're a pteropod," said Jacksonville University graduate student Madelyn Woods. "Known as cresis acicula."

Rough translation: Sea butterfly.

"I'm so excited," Woods said. "These are my favorite marine organism."

Exactly what you may expect to hear from a JU Marine Science Research Institute student, and future marine biologist.

She says they're somewhat unusual around here, typically floating around in warmer, Caribbean waters.

Her theory is a warm water current has brought the mollusks here for a visit.

"They're very needle like in structure," she said. "They're very sharp."

But otherwise not very harmful she says.

"Like getting a splinter."

She says surfers and fishermen have reported the creatures in the ocean, curious as to what they are.

While alive and swimming, they look like butterflies.

They have a wing like tongue that flutters, propelling them through the water.

And while they may be a tiny nuisance for someone who gets stuck by one, they probably won't be around for much longer. Which, for a marine biologist, is sad news.

"I'm thrilled they're here in Jacksonville."

First Coast News

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