Monterey Bay is quite a spectacular sight right now, as parts are littered with thousands of electric blue, glass-like sea creatures that have been swept ashore by the wind. These bizarre cnidarians (a diverse phylum of animals including corals and jellyfish) are called Velella velella and they’re normally found floating on the surface of warm and temperate oceans. Beach goers are treading carefully along the coast, but they’re not dangerous and their sting isn’t harmful.
Image credit: Velela, via Wikimedia Commons.
These organisms have a flat, transparent float and an erect triangular sail that lets them take advantage of the wind. It’s not unusual for them to wash up along beaches in late spring/early summer after they bloom, but according to marine biologist Nancy Black they hadn’t been seen in the area for around 8 years. Why these creatures have decided to show up now and later in the year than usual is puzzling, but scientist Rich Mooi told LA Times that this is not necessarily indicative that anything is wrong with the ocean.
Image credit: Wilson44691, via Wikimedia Commons.
Furthermore, Mooi says that while the sheer number drying up and dying on the beaches may seem alarming, there’s a huge number of velellas scattered across our oceans, so this event isn’t going to harm the species.
Velella washed ashore back in 2004. Image credit: Dan, via Wikimedia Commons.
If you're keen to find out more, check out this YouTube video on velella:
[Header image "Velella Velella," by Bettina Walker, via Flickr. Used in accordance with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]