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The Velella velella, a reputation so good you gotta say it twice.
Who’re they? The tiny disc-like critters are colonial hydrozoans, categorized underneath the phylum of cnidaria, and their eponymous genus of Velella (not a Sport of Thrones reference).
Formally titled the Velella velella (say that 5 occasions quick) it’s possible you’ll know them as by-the-wind sailors. The sailors are a few inches lengthy, and range in hanging shades of cobalt and child blue whereas they’re alive. They’ve an identical construct to jellyfish, however have a small sail protruding from their bell, explaining the title and their migratory patterns.
What is the large deal? California beachgoers have reported seeing hundreds of the Velella velella alongside the shoreline just lately, although they usually reside far offshore.
And their sails can clarify it! They rely fully on the wind and ocean currents to maneuver round, and when the circumstances are excellent, like with latest storms, they will get pushed up onto shore. Additionally they lose that stunning blue hue as soon as they go away the embrace of ocean waters and die onshore, usually turning into grayish or clear. And with no exoskeleton to maintain their form propped up, they shrivel as much as resemble plastic. Their prime predators embrace gloriously hued sea slugs and a particular breed of predatory snail.
Need extra on oceans? Hearken to the Think about This episode on why melting ice in Antarctica is a giant drawback for coastal Texas.
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What are folks saying? Marine biologist Julianne Kalman Passarelli is the training and collections curator at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, California, and spoke with NPR concerning the mysterious blobby dudes.
On how they reproduce:
Hydrozoans are simply actually weird as a result of they do one thing known as alternation of generations. That is how they reproduce. And so they shuttle between a polyp stage, a colonial polyp stage, and a medusa stage.
On the construction of the Velella velella and its ecosystem:
[The Velella velella is] a colony of animals. And if you happen to look actually intently, all these little issues hanging down that seem like tentacles are all totally different organisms inside the similar colony, and so they all work collectively, type of like coral, and so they all have a special goal. One is for copy, one is for feeding, and one is for protection.
On the textures of the sail:
In the event you had been to the touch the highest of the sail, it seems like plastic. It is fairly thick. And really what’s in there’s chitin. And that is the identical materials that’s within the exoskeleton of crustaceans. So it is notoriously onerous and protecting, however you positively do not need to decide them up and contact them as a result of they’re cnidarians. Their sting shouldn’t be recognized to be as poisonous as their kinfolk, the Portuguese man o’ warfare, and even their extra distant kinfolk jellyfish, sea nettles, issues like that. However they will trigger irritation. I would not recommend choosing them up along with your naked fingers.
So, what now?
So long as the circumstances are proper, the Velella velella will proceed to clean ashore, till winds push them elsewhere. Actual go-with-the-flow kind guys. Although it is not yearly, seeing these tiny frisbees of the ocean is not probably the most uncommon factor. “I’ve lived down right here for over 20 years and I’ve seen them a minimum of 10 occasions,” Kalman Passarelli mentioned.