Blue Buttons

Blue Buttons are washing up on the Gulf Shores beaches this weekend.

The are related somewhat to Portugese man-o-war as they are in the class Hydrozoa and phylum Cnidaria.

They are so cool and on my list of things to find on the beach and add to my collection. Since I probably won’t get to the beach this week, a friend of mine is bringing me some.

Blue Buttons have a small disk-like float surrounded by tentacles. They float on the water and capture zooids in their tentacles and feed off of them.  They are not jellyfish (very distantly related through their phylum), but their tentacles may cause irritation to some people.  Be cautious but I say “may cause irritation” because some people are not bothered by it.  I had been on a 4H trip with my children and the marine biologist with us explained that a certain jellyfish we were looking at was safe to touch; only rarely did some people get a small irritation.  I witnessed then a child become irritated and rashed by the jelly; no one else in the group touching it did. 

Relatives of Blue Buttons that I do have in my collection include: Portuguese Man-o-War and By-the-wind Sailors.  These I found on the east coast of Florida (Singer Island) late November.  They tend to beach themselves in the winter months.  Be careful if you see them.  Their tentacles, which can be as long as 150 feet, can still sting you and it’s very painful.  Meat tenderizer, urine or an Urgent Care facility can treat the pain.

Speaking of blue-ish marine creatures that float, I also have in my collection several Purple Sea Snails.  I thought I’d never find one so I bought a shell while in Sanibel a couple years ago.  A few months later, visiting my in-laws on Singer Island in November, we found dozens of them washed up.  Purple Sea Snails are not related to Blue Buttons, Portuguese Man-o-War or By-the-wind Sailors; they prey upon and eat them.  Yup, these three stinging, tentacled beauties have to watch out for a little snail.  Purple Sea Snails float in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico by making a mucous bubble that keeps them boyant.  When they find any of these three hydrozoans, they attach themselves and eat away.  When the meal is over they’ll make another mucous bubble and float around again. 

I’m looking forward to our trip to Singer Island this year and I can’t wait to examine the Blue Button my friend brings me.  I’ll add a picture to this article as soon as I can.