WTF Are These Things Washed Up on Ocean Beach?

Jul 30 at 1pm

Over the past few days, Ocean Beach has been inundated with thousands of small blueish-purple sea creatures known as By-The-Wind Sailors. Their Latin name, Velella Velella, comes from the Latin word for sail. These little guys hang out in the phylum Cnidaria with the Sea Nettle and Portuguese Man o’ War, but unlike their poisonous cousins, their tentacles are totally harmless to humans. Similar to the Man o’ War though, they’re comprised of colonies of individual polyps that work together sharing whatever drifting food is caught.

As bizarre as it might be to see so many of these things washed up in one place, it’s actually relatively common, occurring every few years. The strange part is that they’re here so late in the summer. By-The-Wind Sailors don’t have any means of self propulsion so they live at the mercy of King Neptune. Springtime storms usually blow them toward land along the West Coast from California to Canada and as ABC7 reported, local scientists haven’t yet figured out why they’re so late in coming this year.

In a few days, the gummy blue bits will dry out and disintegrate, leaving translucent “skeletons” that resemble plastic leaves blowing around the sand. By-The-Wind Sailors can be found at sea in groups as big as a soccer field and can wash up by the millions. Even mass strandings like this barely put a dent in the world population. But in case your heart is still bleeding just a little bit for the unfortunate ones that wound up on the sand, you should take solace in the fact they don’t even technically have brains.

[h/t Reddit]

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