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Spanish dancer washes ashore at Elliott River

Spanish dancer
Stephanie Harrison captured this photo of a Spanish dancer washed up on the Elliott River foreshore recently.

A trip to the Elliott River on New Year’s Eve turned into a scene from National Geographic for Stephanie Harrison and her husband after they saw a Spanish dancer washed ashore.

Although common in Australian waters they are often elusive due to shying from the light and mostly come out during the night.

Stephanie said she was walking along the foreshore when she came across the strange sea creature moving slowly along the sand.

“We initially thought it was a slug of some sort,” Stephanie said.

“It was slowly moving on the sand at the speed of a snail. I thought it could be poisonous with its bright colours.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Stephanie and her husband safely got the creature back to water after capturing a few snaps of the strange ocean dweller.

What is a Spanish dancer?

With its bright red colour and white spotted pattern, the creature might resemble a piece of raw bacon outside the water.

In the ocean, however, the Spanish dancer is a sight to behold.

According to Atlas of Living Australia, the creature is part of the nudibranch (sea slug) family and uses the sides of its body to “dance” through the sea.

“If the animal is disturbed, it unfolds its edges and can swim through contractions and undulations of the body to move away from the disturbing element,” the website stated.

“Its common name, Spanish dancer, comes from this particular defence.”

The creatures can grow up to 60cm and prefer areas containing an abundance of coral and sponges.

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