By-The-Wind Sailors

Velella Velella

Velella Velella

I am constantly amazed at the unusual creatures there are in the world. I came across this picture this morning, and thought the creature was so beautiful that I did some research to learn about it. This is a small jellyfish called Velella velella. It is also commonly called “by-the-wind sailors,” or “purple sailor.”

It remains afloat on the surface of the Pacific Ocean for most of its life. It never touches or even comes close to the ocean bottom, and the only stage in its life when it is completely submerged under water is the larval stage. It begins its life in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is brought by the wind to the shores, and is usually cast up on a beach where it dies and disintegrates. The Velella are most common on the high seas, in the warmer regions of the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

I read on one website:

Winds blowing gently against its triangular, clear sail move the jellyfish. The sail is set diagonally to the long axis of the animal. On our side of the north Pacific Ocean, their sails are set in a northwest to southeast direction. On the other side of the north Pacific, the sails are set in a northeast to southwest direction. In the southern hemisphere, sails are reversed. As long as the winds blow gently, Velella tacks at about 45° away from a following wind. This keeps the animal offshore.

When winds are strong, Velella loses its tacking ability and begins spinning and more directly follows the wind. Strong westerlies, then, are what drive these animals onto our beaches.

I think this jellyfish is beautiful.

Categories: Sea Creatures | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “By-The-Wind Sailors

  1. Wow. It is stunning.

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