Random Hydrozoan: Billions of purple sailors washed up on Pacific beaches

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Purple sailors (Anthomedusae: Porpitidae: Vellela vellela) washed up on Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park, WA. Photographed 04/19/2015.

This past weekend my wife and I spent a few days exploring the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.  One of the more interesting discoveries we made involved innumerable blue marine invertebrates (Anthomedusae: Porpitidae: Vellela vellela) that had washed up on the Pacific beaches of Olympic National Park.

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Purple sailor (Anthomedusae: Porpitidae: Vellela vellela) washed up on Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park, WA. Photographed 04/19/2015.

Although vaguely similar to jellyfish, these animals are more closely related to Portuguese man 0′ wars.  These colonial carnivores float above the water and project tentacles filled with stinging cells down into the ocean below. Prey that happen upon them are paralyzed and slowly consumed. These hydrozoans move about by means of a simple sail that grows upward and are at the mercy of wind and water patterns.

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Purple sailors (Anthomedusae: Porpitidae: Vellela vellela) washed up on Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park, WA. Photographed 04/19/2015.

Every few years particularly strong and persistent westerly winds can strand vast numbers of these animals on beaches where they die. In recent weeks billions of these animals have washed up on the Pacific coast from Washington to California. Since this is a relatively uncommon event I thought we were pretty lucky to happen upon it.  Good for us, not so good for the purple sailors.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Invertebrate Zoology, National Parks and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Random Hydrozoan: Billions of purple sailors washed up on Pacific beaches

  1. aleksawal says:

    That’s so sad, but they do look incredibly beautiful in the photos…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jet Eliot says:

    Oh Jeremy, these are beautiful creatures. Isn’t it so fortunate when we happen across an unusual phenomenon? I bet they are just beautiful floating on the water too. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing to see these great photos! We have many bluish-purple “bubbles” stranded along the shore at various times here in Southeast Florida. I don’t know enough about the seashore life to know for sure, but I was told by someone that they are Man o’ Wars.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This animals look really pretty, I’ve never seen anything like that. I’m fascinated by the blue colour.

    Like

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