By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (1)

The sun shining on flotillas of miniscule boat-like objects wrecked on the glistening sands of Rhossili beach one cold January morning was one of the most amazing sights. These were the internal  transparent chitinous floats of By-the-wind-sailors, Velella velella (Linnaeus). Each one only 4 or 5 cms long, they lay stranded in small groups or on their own. The low early morning winter sun shone through them with their upright curving fin-like sails casting shadows on the sand and the floats glistening with reflected light.

Class Hydrozoa, Order Hydroidea, Suborder Athecata (Anthomedusae), Family Velellidae, Velella velella (Linnaeus) – a single North Atlantic pelagic species having a flat chambered oval translucent float with a triangular fin or ‘sail’ with a deep blue body. May occur stranded in large numbers on south-westerly coasts at any time of the year after strong long-lasting winds from the south or south-west.

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (2) 

In life these creatures live free-floating in the ocean. They float in vast swarms in the North Atlantic. They can be beached alive but mostly it is the dried floats that are found on the strandline. They are a type of  Hydroid and are distantly related to jellyfish. They are deep blue when alive and have series of tentacles encircling the underside of the float.

You can see in the picture below a group of these small floats alongside my own shoeprint in the sand which gives an idea of relative size. They can, however, grow upto 100 mm long.

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (3)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (4)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (5)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (6)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous float, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (7)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (8)

By-the-wind-sailor chitinous floats, Velella velella (Linnaeus), on the strandline of Rhossili Beach, Gower, South Wales, UK (9) 

Revision of a post first published 5 May 2009

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2011

All Rights Reserved

3 Replies to “Sailing by Rhossili Bay”

  1. It’s incredible how much seashore life you have photographed and which I have never seen in years of visiting Gower’ beaches.

    Like

  2. There is so much on Gower shores. I am hoping that anyone reading my blog will learn what to look for and find some of these wonderful things for themselves.

    Like

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