The current state of the California shoreline appears to be something out of a sci-fi movie. Thousands of tiny electric blue saucer-like creatures with miniature sails have washed up on the beach, leaving beach goers a little wary of their surroundings. While they may sound like a small alien species taking to the land in a manner resemblant to Darwin’s tetrapod, these tiny blue creatures are a very common ocean species, Velella vellella. It is uncommon, however, to find these little guys washed up on shore–which would be why Californians are concerned. The good news is that these blue creatures are not harmful to humans; their sting is less irritating than that of a jellyfish.
Velella are usually found floating along the surface of warm, temperate waters and it is believed that they have been pushed to shore due to unusually strong winds. It is not uncommon to see them in late spring and early summer, when they typically bloom, so to see such a large influx now at the end of summer is rather odd.
Marine biologist, Nancy Black, explains to San Jose’s Mercury News, “It’s been eight years, plus or minus, that we’ve seen them…Why they’ve come now, it’s hard to say.”
A combination of warmer ocean temperatures and shifts in wind patterns, perhaps related to global climate change, are the suspected factors that have brought these “by-the-wind-sailors” ashore. Though the scene may look like a rather devastating loss for the Velella population, scientist Richard Mooi, told the LA Times that this mass stranding event won’t harm the species as there are thousands more floating across the ocean at any given time.
While there is, of course, a perfectly rational explanation for the appearance of these blue beach “invaders,” they still look like something out of this world.
All image source: The Blaze via Twitter