Unusual Blue Sea Creatures Wash Up On California Shoreline (Photos)

| by Emily Smith

California beachgoers didn’t hesitate to photograph thousands of unusual blue sea creatures that washed ashore this week – a phenomenon scientists claim they haven’t seen in almost a decade.

The tiny blue creatures are known as Velella velella and are nicknamed the “by-the-wind sailor," according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They float on the sea with sail-like tops and eat Zooplankton or fish eggs.

The creatures give the shoreline a purple gleam and occasionally an unpleasant odor. Although the tiny sailors aren’t necessarily poisonous to humans, their venom can cause stinging in the eyes and mouth.

Some experts have suggested that the large colony of sea creatures showed up on the San Fransisco shoreline this week because of strong winds. However, their appearance so late in the summer is unusual, since they normally bloom in April or May.

Steve Rumrill, an expert at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, noted that the phenomenon is probably wind-driven, and pointed out that wind has been unusual this year.

“It’s been eight years, plus or minus, that we’ve seen them,” Monterey Bay Whale Watch marine biologist Nancy Black said. “Why they’ve come now, it’s hard to say.”

Rich Mooi, curator of invertebrate zoology and geology at the California Academy of Sciences, said the appearance of the Velella velella is “a little bit out of whack."

Check out these pictures of them, courtesy of Twitter/TheBlaze:

Sources: TheBlaze, The Guardian