Mysterious Blue Jellyfish-Like Creatures Invade West Coast Beaches

What is this animal?

ByBY ALYSSA NEWCOMB
September 05, 2014, 10:54 AM
PHOTO: A Newport Beach lifeguard holds a by-the-wind-sailor, or Velella, jellyfish that washed up on the beach in Newport Beach, Calif. on Aug. 21, 2014.
A Newport Beach lifeguard holds a by-the-wind-sailor, or Velella, jellyfish that washed up on the beach in Newport Beach, Calif. on Aug. 21, 2014.
Sam Gangwer/AP Photo

— -- The strange blue creatures swarming West Coach beaches this summer simply go wherever the wind takes them.

Droves of Velella velella -- also known as "by-the-wind sailors" -- have been washing ashore in droves this summer along the West Coast.

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The marine animals, which float on the surface of the Pacific Ocean, have a small sail and oval shaped bodies about the size of a palm of a hand -- leaving them at the mercy of the wind and ocean currents.

PHOTO: A few Velella velella, also known as by-the-wind-sailors, were seen on Pescadero State Beach, Calif. on May, 14 2003.
A few Velella velella, also known as by-the-wind-sailors, were seen on Pescadero State Beach, Calif. on May, 14 2003.
Steve Lonhart/NOAA MBNMS

Once they reach land, the blue, translucent velella die and decompose into cellophane-like corpses, according to National Geographic.

The animals have been spotted littering beaches spanning from Canada's West Coast to Southern California, according to reports.

PHOTO: This photo taken Aug. 2014 by Emily Horton while she was out boating off of La Push, WA, in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, shows velella velellas or 'by-the-wind-sailors' covering the beach.
This photo taken Aug. 2014 by Emily Horton while she was out boating off of La Push, WA, in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, shows velella velellas or 'by-the-wind-sailors' covering the beach.
Emily Horton, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

"It's pretty hard to walk down the beach without stepping on them," beachgoer Mitch Bunnell told ABC News' Los Angeles owned station KABC. "I've seen a few here and there over the past summers, but nothing like this."

PHOTO: Two by-the-wind-sailors on Pescadora State Beach, Calif. on April, 17 2003.
Two by-the-wind-sailors on Pescadora State Beach, Calif. on April, 17 2003.
Steve Lonhart/NOAA MBNMS

While the velella resemble jellyfish, they don't have the same sting. The animal's mouth is in the middle of the underside of its body and it only feeds on small prey it can catch near the surface, such as fish eggs and plankton.

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