Authorities were taken aback by a very odd invasion on the Washington State beaches. Millions of unusual, jellyfish-like creatures have painted the shores in blue, creating a soft, viscous and mushy blanket on the beaches. They are said to have been pushed from Baja to the Behring Sea. Given their aspect and texture, they rather look like living things from another world.
This phenomenon has been happening for more than a month now and most beachcombers say that they have never seen anything like this before. The small creatures called velella velella or “purple sailors” have been invading west coast beaches for quite a while now. Witnesses said that they look like blue mussel from a distance. Officials stated that the sea creatures also washed up in April last year and another invasion of the ocean shores occurred six years ago. They do not represent a threat to humans, as they are not poisonous, but rather something interesting to look at and possibly an attraction for people who like to spend time at the beach this time of the year. They are less than 7 cm long and blue. Their most striking characteristic is the sail which is small and stiff. They are carnivorous and usually eat plankton, which they kill with a toxin that their tentacles release. This toxin is harmful to their prey but not to humans. However, people are advised not to rub their eyes or insert their fingers in their mouths after touching them because all jellyfish are known to have stinging cells. Moreover, although no cases of harmful effects on humans have been reported so far, it is known that every individual reacts differently to any given toxin.
But why are they here, instead of far-off into the sea, one may ask. An explanation would be that as soon as sea surface – where they like to live – warms up after the cold season, they migrate in large droves to the shore. Steve Green, a representative of the Coastal Interpretive Centre In Ocean Shores, Washington, said that they have a sail fin with a bend to it that enables them to curve and stay away from the beach. However, when the wind blows really hard, they are set off course, since they are small and light and don’t have the strength to face such currents. It is then when they start to spin and are pushed on the shore.
Until more is known about these otherworldly creatures of the sea, people can enjoy the sight of them on the Washington beaches, before they are washed away by the waves of the Ocean.
Image Source: scientificamerican