Purple blue jellyfish-like creatures (related to dangerous Portuguese man o’ war) stranded on Central California beaches

Earlier this week, we noticed these purplish blue jellyfish-like creatures stranded at the Moss Landing – Salinas River State Beach (Central California coast)…

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up on California beaches wb

My 9-year-old grandson, Jun standing next to a Velella — a sort of close cousin to jellyfish, and closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.  Photo Lolako.com

We have not seen these before, and they looked very interesting, with a blue, disc-shaped purplish bottom on one side and sliver of jelly-like material and flap on the other side.

Vellela jellie like closeup washed up on California beaches

Velella velella – photo by Lolako.com

At first we saw one or two every 5 to 10 feet….but then, as we walked further down the beach, we started to see hundreds of them.

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up California beaches wb

Velella velella stranded at Central California beaches. Photo by Lolako.com

We found out they are a close cousin to jellyfish and are called Velellas.

They are also known as sea raftby-the-wind sailorpurple sail, and little sail. They are found in most of the world’s oceans, and live on the surface of the water.

The top, jelly part acts like a sail and floats above the water, and the bottom blueish part is actually a colony of polyps with tentacles that catch prey like plankton, fish eggs and small shrimps.

Though quite small, these creatures are closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.

But unlike Portuguese man o’ wars with tentacles of up to 160 feet (50 meters) that are venomous and dangerous to humans (even the ones washed up on the beach!) the much tinier Velellas’ are generally harmless to humans.  Still, the website Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) recommends not touching one’s face or eyes after handling Velellas.

Everything else you would want to know about Velellas is on the EOL website, which is where we also found this terrific video.

Velella – Planktonic Vessels from Parafilms on Vimeo.

Colonies of polyps transported by prevailing winds, velella drift at the surface of warm seas.   Plankton Chronicles Project by Christian Sardet, CNRS / Noe Sardet and Sharif Mirshak, Parafilms.  See Plankton Chronicles interactive site: planktonchronicles.org

Because Velellas cannot propel themselves, they are at the mercy of prevailing winds, and explains why they can sometimes wash ashore, stranded on beaches by the thousands.

Shore birds did not seem interested in eating the washed up Velellas…so they’ll just decompose or get washed back to sea at next high tide.

Have you seen Velella before or know more about these creatures washing up and stranded near where you live?

More Moss Landing beach related post from Lolako.com:

Turtle Tunes and the Giant Pacific Leatherback

There is a lot we do know about the hundreds of species of turtles living on our planet. Except that is….how they sound or vocalize.  

Papers published in the 1950’s claimed that turtles were deaf and did not vocalize.  So until recently, and because of this false assumption, no one studied turtle vocalizations. From mongabay.com….

Two new studies published recently in Chelonian Conservation and Biology and Herpetologica find that two turtle species vocalize when they reproduce and during some social interactions, and that their vocalizations are many and varied.   

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles living today. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.  Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0725-morgan-turtletalk.html#IR3v7DoAVuTo2xUF.99

California’s official marine reptile is the giant Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle. Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles living today. Photo by Tiffany Roufs via mongabay.com

The studies respectively looked at two very different species: giant Amazon river turtles (Podocnemis expansa) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). They found that the river turtles vocalized in all sorts of situations, from interactions between adults to hatchling communication. Leatherbacks, less social turtles, were also found to vocalize as when hatching and as they dispersed from their nests into the sea. Read more 

Interesting…and a reminder that just because we humans can’t hear certain creatures making sounds, it does not mean they are not making them.

it took decades to dispel the belief that turtles are deaf and did not vocalize…and most scientists tuned out ever studying their vocalizations all because of published literature dating back from the 1950’s.

Related Lolako.com posts — especially on the giant Pacific Leatherback turtle (California’s official marine reptile) :

Did you know…Elephants also vocalize in super low frequencies that humans can’t hear.  Low frequency sounds travel farther, making them better for long distance communication (see more about forest elephant vocalization here – The Cornell Lab Elephant Listening Project).

Jose Antonio Vargas…and the upcoming Pistahan Festival

Jose-Antonio-Vargas-22Jose Antonio Vargas, a well-known activist for undocumented immigrants was recently detained at a Texas airport while reporting on the onslaught of minors crossing into the U.S. from Central America.

I posted about Mr. Vargas when he was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Pistahan Festival — a festival in San Francisco celebrating Filipino culture and cuisine.   Excerpt:

Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. Vargas profiled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker in 2010, and his articles on AIDS inspired the documentary, The Other City.

In 2011, Vargas became the “story” when he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant, in an essay for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.   Continue reading…

I am following his courageous work…and fears about him being deported (though always the possibility, and part of his reality) were allayed after reading the article from Mother Jones on 8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won’t Be Deported.  Made sense to me!

Pistahan-Fest-Young-Women

Members of the Kariktan Dance Company at the Pistahan Festival celebrating Filipino culture

And the post reminded me that the 2014 Pistahan Festival is coming up soon…

In case you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or nearby, Pistahan is the largest celebration of Filipino culture in the United States and worth attending.

Pistahan’s focus this year is the Visayan culture!

A huge and colorful parade kicks the festival off on August 9th, and the festival runs through August 10th at Yerba Buena Gardens — Moscone Convention Center area.  For parade schedule and festival information, visit Pistahan.net.

There are terrific performances and great food if you want to sample Filipino cuisine (the year we went, they had Pinx Catering serving up Ube Waffles).

More Filipino food related posts, here and post on Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world, here.

Yes, California is STILL in a drought emergency…so how about fake lawns, anyone?

California Drought 2014 web

Brown is the new green?  Brown grass — or alternatives to green lawns — SHOULD be the new normal for many lawns in California.

It’s been over six months since California declared a drought emergency with the goal of reducing 20% of our water use.

Instead, water use actually increased this year!

How is this possible?  Many areas of California closed out year 2013 as the driest in recorded history.  

Yet three years into this drought — and despite wide local (and National) media coverage and attention — water use has gone up.

Do people not watch the news, don’t care, are selfish and do not see this drought as a real and long-term problem? Are there not enough Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or are people ignoring the PSAs?

It could be too that unlike floods, fires or other emergencies, drought is gradual…so as long as water comes out of our faucets and water hoses, perhaps we don’t think of it as a real emergency?

A couple of days ago, California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved regulations to allow local law and water organizations to fine water wasters up to $500 per day (e.g., for hosing down sidewalks, washing cars with free-flowing hoses, excessive lawn watering).

I wonder if the threat of a $500 fine will make a difference.  What will it take to get the point to California residents that we are in a serious situation.  Is it because water is too inexpensive for the average California consumer?

Near our neighborhood a new lawn made from artificial grass is in process of getting installed…

Are your neighbors doing something similar or xeriscaping — installing llandscapes or gardens that minimizes or eliminates water needs?

I have always disliked plastic plants and especially plastic flowers.  Yes, most real flowers are ephemeral (except for orchids that can last for months) but isn’t that the point…that some things should be enjoyed in their moment and life cycle?

So how about a fake (no water EVER needed) lawn?

I suppose if you absolutely must have a green front yard…this one looks pretty close to the real thing.

replacing grass lawns web

I think we will go to the nearest park though, if I really must be surrounded by manicured green grass.  Just can’t get past adding all that plastic around a home…  How about you?

Related Links: California Department of Water Resources and Sunset Magazine article Should you fake the lawn?

Mosquito bites and the chickungunya virus

A viral disease called chickungunya is now being spread by mosquitoes in the US.   Oh great…one more thing to worry about with mosquito bites.

Types of mosquitos spreading CHIKV virus

Chikungunya (CHIKV) is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Most common are the mosquito types on this photos (Aedes spp., predominantly Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus).  These mosquitos are the same type that spread dengue fever.  They bite in the daytime.  Photo via CDC website.

Have you heard about chickungunya?

The first outbreak of the disease was in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ is from a word in the Kimakonde language (spoken in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique) that means “to become contorted” or “that which bends up”.

It describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.  Signs and symptoms also include a sudden start of fever often accompanied by joint pain. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days.

Most infected patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several weeks or months, or even years.  The good news is that deaths from chikungunya are rare.

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted – map via the US CDC

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chikungunya (CHIKVI) has occurred in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, CHIKVI was found for the first time on islands in the Caribbean.

chik-inbound-english-tSince then, CHIKVI has been found in multiple countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, and now in the US.

NOTE: In California, the mosquito Aedes albopictus (one of the types that spread CHIKV) are found in Southern and Central California.

Its habitat are small containers and old tires.

As there are no known vaccine or medication, the CDC advice is to reduce your exposure by:

There are currently no antiviral medicines to treat the chikungunya virus. However, there are medicines to reduce the fever and pain experienced by those exposed to the virus.  For more details, visit the CDC’s website about chikungunya, here.

yellow fever mosquito

Photo via montereycountymosquito.com

Also visit Monterey County Mosquito website, here:  Excerpt:

The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, and other diseases. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the thorax. The mosquito originated in Africa but is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, now including many parts of California.

And by the way, there is also a measles outbreak now, which originated in the Philippines!  Over forty-thousand cases were reported in the Philippines between January to May, 2014.  More on the measles outbreak, here, including information on what travelers can do to protect themselves if traveling to the Philippines.

Blog post information source from the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization (WHO)