Angels are making their way to beaches across the Delmarva Peninsula by way of the Clione limacina, more commonly known as the naked sea butterfly or sea angel. A flurry of social media posts have asked what is the bright orange sea creature found at the shoreline.
Despite its translucent appearance and wing-like appendages, the naked sea butterfly is actually a slug native to the Arctic Ocean and cold regions of the North Atlantic Ocean, according to Ocean Conservancy.
Cool water temperatures along the Mid-Atlantic have made the creature wash up on beaches along the Delmarva Peninsula, including Chincoteague and Assateague, and into Delaware at Cape Henlopen.
The town of Ocean City notes there is a process called upwelling at play, in which deep, cold water rises to the ocean’s surface. In the open ocean and along the shoreline, wind mixes the water around and brings water from the bottom of the ocean, which is cold and nutrient-rich, to the surface.
The blue, orange, and red sea angel boasts two subspecies with the northern variation living in colder water and maturing at 1.2 inches and reaching a size of 2.8 to 3.3 in. Conversely, the southern subspecies reaches only about half an inch.
Despite their diminutive size, they are hearty enough to live from the surface of the water to depths greater than 1,600 feet. While they don't present a danger to the public, their unique features make them an interesting addition to the shore.
Another reason why the creature could be making an appearance is that both spring and summer is when the naked sea butterfly breeds.
Their presence is largely believed to be seasonal and highly dependent on colder water temperatures. During their short lifecycle, speculated by scientist to be at least two years, they will produce 30 to 40 eggs.
This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Naked sea butterfly are washing up on beaches Maryland, Virginia