Thousands of glimmering, deep blue marine invertebrates with transparent semicircular sails and tiny tentacles at their bases have been washing up on California’s beaches.
Sightings of this ocean-dwelling creature have been reported in Humboldt County, Monterey and Ocean Beach, according to numerous social media accounts, according to NBC of Southern California.
Here are some images of the brilliant blue creatures:
Ocean beach continues to amaze me. A bunch of Valella washed up on shore yesterday. These guys are amazing (& weird)! pic.twitter.com/8j3jhvYFpv
— Hayley Carter (@HayleyCarterOST) July 23, 2014
Going by the scientific name “Velella velella,” this sea-born genus which is only “distantly related and only superficially similar” to the jellyfish goes by the nickname “by-the-wind-sailor,” due to the clear sail it anatomically touts atop its deep blue base, and which propels it over the ocean’s surface, according to Rich Mooi of the California Academy of Sciences.
— PRNSA (@PRNSA) July 30, 2014
Velella velella are in fact related to the Portuguese man-o’-war, which are notorious for their stinging ability, but are completely harmless to humans, Mooi told NBC.
A Facebook post which captures a group of Velella velellas washed on shore can also be seen by clicking here.
The pelagic species — which means they tend to stay on the ocean’s surface and at a distance from the shore for the majority of their lives — have been known to typically wash onshore around April each year. However, NBC notes that it is not known why so many of them are washing up this late in the summer. Unseasonably strong winds could be to blame
Due to their surface-dwelling nature, they tend to prey on zooplankton, which are are tiny animals found near the ocean’s surface, as well as fish that dwell within the same proximity. They are, however, preyed upon by snails, reports NBC. They are also preyed upon by sea slugs.
Despite their harmlessness to human beings, it is not recommended they be eaten.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Jillyspoon