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Velella Velella Return to Oregon Coast, This Time Much Larger in Size

Published 04/10/2018 at 5:15 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Velella Velella Return to Oregon Coast, This Time Much Larger in Size

(Oregon Coast) - Strange yet familiar, the little blue creatures have returned to the Oregon coast. Except this time they’re not so little. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

Velella velella have begun showing again in fairly large numbers along the coastline, with reports of fairly heavy populations on the central Oregon coast, at Manzanita and some at Arch Cape (near Cannon Beach). A few areas, like Seaside, don’t appear to be seeing much – if at all.

The masses of them haven’t been especially large, mostly somewhat sizable piles here and there. But the specimens themselves are of a larger size than usual: the bodies are bigger than normally seen. This indicates they’re much more mature than what often winds up here. Most of the time when velella appear they’re around the size of a silver dollar. Last year, a lot of juveniles showed up and they were around the size of a quarter.

These are almost twice the size of a silver dollar.

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Charlie Plybon, with the Newport chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said they’ve been appearing for a few weeks in that area.

Tiffany Boothe, with Seaside Aquarium, encountered a few in Arch Cape and made these photographs, but they had dried up and thus lost their color.

“I haven’t really seen them around Seaside,” she said.

Sometimes called Purple Sails or By-the-Wind-Sailors, they begin popping up when west winds kick in. They have no real means of propelling themselves, so they are at the mercy of the winds. If it's westerly winds pushing onshore for awhile, the seas draw them onto the Oregon coast's sands.

Velella velella are closely related to salps, which in some ways are like jellyfish in that they too are gelatinous in nature. Yet actually, salps have more in common with mammals than jellyfish biologically. They don't sting at all, but they are more closely related to the Man-O-War – a kind of salp that does sting prey and pokes humans. These do not exist on this coastline.

While they can't hurt you, officials say you should not touch them or walk on them barefoot. They are, after all, something formerly alive that's now rotting on the beach.

Velella capture the phytoplankton they eat with tiny tentacles.

The big problem with Purple Sails is the stench they create. After a couple of days, especially if the sun shines on them for awhile, they begin to stink. Sometimes it's nearly unbearable and you find you have to drive past some Oregon coast beaches with your window rolled up.

Purple Sails tend to show up more in later April, so this may well be a precursor to a much bigger stranding. It’s likely you’ll see them for awhile through the spring. Where to stay for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

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Previous inundations of velella velella below, courtesy Seaside Aquarium





 

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