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:

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