Purple Jellies Piling Up on Oregon Coast in Huge Numbers
(Oregon Coast) – Last week, the bulk of the Oregon coast was hit by a large number of Purple Sails – a kind of small jellyfish in a disc-like shape that's purple in color, until it dries out. (Photo above: Kaili Carlton).
Now, however, the inundation has continued unabated and the little creatures are literally covering all of the Oregon coast. It is now hard to step on any part of a beach without stepping on them. Reports are coming in from Rockaway Beach, just north of Yachats, Lincoln City, Manzanita and elsewhere of indicate massive patches of them, sometimes 50 or more yards wide or long. Even the space between these chunks of purple critters have some amount of them.
They are also well known by the name velella velella, and sometimes called By-the-Wind-Sailors.
Charlie Plybon, a Newport resident and a manager at the Oregon chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, first talked to Oregon Coast Beach Connection about them last week, and he noticed the velella velella were also accompanied by their predators: tiny purple snails called a Violet Snail.
“They haven't really stopped coming in,” Plybon said. “They've been coming in and coming in since I talked to you last. The west winds keep washing them up.”
West winds first brought them in in great numbers, and those westerly winds have not let up. So these creatures – and other finds – keep washing in. Now, now they are piling up on each other.
One of the problems these mass strandings of velella velella can cause is a nasty fishy odor. If there's a long stretch of sunny, warm and dry days, these begin to rot quickly and completely inundate the beaches with a stinking fishy smell.
Luckily, it's been raining on and off for the last week, said Seaside Aquarium manager Keith Chandler.
“It smells, but it's not too bad,” Chandler said. “It's nothing we're not really used to.”
Kaili Carlton of Beaverton took these photos and was awestruck by the huge numbers. She discovered a thick carpet of them all over Lincoln City beaches.
“Photos don't even do it justice,” she said.
While technically not jellyfish, velella velella are closely related to them, but more closely related to the Man-O-War – a kind of jellyfish that stings its prey and can be an ouch-inducer to humans. Purple Sails, however, do not sting their prey and pose no threat to humans. Instead, they capture what they eat with tiny tentacles.
It's not too uncommon to have two or three occurrences of this during the spring, and at least one stranding event yields a massive amount. They seemed to disappear for several years between 2007 and 20014. This time, however, seems one of the larger inundations in more than a decade.
Stranger still, the winds and currents have also brought in even tinier predators that eat the velella velella, called Voilet Snails. Plybon snapped a photo of one of these creatures last week (above).
“Also known as 'storm snails' or 'violet snails,' they make a cool bubble raft, float pelagically and feed on the velellas,” Plybon said.
Their genus name is Janthina.
West winds like these mean lots of other beach treasures will be washing up as well. Look for egg casings from fish like skates, weird rocks and odd manmade debris. These currents were also likely responsible from the large boat found recently off the central Oregon coast, presumed to be tsunami debris from the Japanese earthquake of 2011. Officials say conditions like these also increase your chances for finding the highly coveted glass float balls from Japan, used until the 70's by fishermen from that country. Photos below by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium.
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