Velella velella (By-the-wind Sailor) at Rhossili

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By-the-wind sailor (Velella velella Linnaeus) on the beach at Rhossili, Gower, South Wales.

By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella Linnaeus) have been washing ashore at Rhossili Beach over the past week. The sandy strandline has been dotted with dozens of the dark blue jellyfish-like creatures with their characteristic translucent sails. They are not actually jellyfish but pelagic (free-floating) colonial hydroids. [See also the earlier posts about this marine invertebrate in Sailing by Rhossili Bay and Bright Blue Blobs on the Beach.]

31 Replies to “Velella velella (By-the-wind Sailor) at Rhossili”

  1. They are exquisitely made – especially when you realise that each creature is a joint venture made up from a large number of individual organisms with different shapes and functions that are working together as a coordinated whole.

  2. They are small and easily overlooked. Most on Rhossil beach were just a couple of inches long. Once stranded, they quickly seem to dissolve away into the sand while being devoured by sandhoppers. Eventually, only the transparent sail is left to blow around the beach.

  3. Thank you, Pam. You are right about taking the pictures, even with a rotational viewfinder, it is difficult to get the camera low enough because of the wet sand, and to get the light right. When I picked up a freshly stranded by-the-wind-sailor and placed it on my hand to take a shot, I got stung on the palm by the outer ring of defensive tentacles that shoot out nematocysts with poison – fortunately only a mild sensation like stinging nettle.

  4. Thank you, Julie. These were very recently stranded specimens in fresh condition so they were perfect for photographs. It would have been even nicer to have seen them floating in flotilla formation on the waves. Maybe another time.

  5. Well the pictures came out great! I remember once in California the wind blew hundreds of them onshore. I also enjoy your rock pictures. I have always liked geology.

  6. Wow, what amazing creatures! Never seen these in real life, and I would have assumed that they were jellyfish. Fantastic photos, Jessica!

  7. Thank you, Rolling Harbour. Relatively harmless but still capable of stinging, like mild stinging nettle sensation,as I found out when I put one on the palm of my hand to photograph it.

  8. Have a great time at Chesil and good luck with the fishing – otherwise you could always stop off at the Crab House Cafe on the way back: they are serving whole mackerel roasted with chilli, garlic, soy served on a
    bed of Chinese vegetables today!

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