The Latest Strange Sea Creature to Wash Up on the Outer Banks? Naked Sea Butterflies

Fear not: these crazy-looking little guys don't sting.

Naked Sea Butterfly
Photo: kata716/Getty Images

From salps and sea pork to prehistoric fossils, if you look closely enough, there's no telling what you might come across on the shores of the Carolinas.

The latest sea creatures to make headlines are naked sea butterflies, a shell-less species of sea snail that resemble little orange ice cream cones with wings. Though they typically prefer the cold, deep waters of the Arctic, lately they've been washing up on the Outer Banks.

According to North Carolina Sea Grant, clione limacina, also called "naked sea butterflies" and "sea angels," can wash up on Outer Banks beaches when wind conditions blow warm water out to sea and cold water moves in closer from deep in the Atlantic.

"Sometimes, when strong winds blow warm surface waters offshore, cold water located below will rise up to take its place," NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island explained on Facebook. "This process is called upwelling and can bring organisms living in the cold water, such as naked sea butterflies, close to shore."

Naked sea butterflies get their name from the tiny wings they use to move through the water. They are typically one to two inches long and though they are mostly translucent, they are not related to jellyfish, and more importantly, they do not sting.

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Keep those eyes peeled, y'all!

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