NEWPORT, Ore. (CBS Seattle) – Millions of jellyfish-like sea creatures are invading west coast beaches stretching from Oregon to California.
LiveScience reports these “by-the-wind-sailors” typically live in the open ocean but when warm water and storms draw them near the shore, the wind blows them onto beaches where they die in stinking piles.
The scientific name for these creatures is Velella velella, and they are not jellyfish; they are free-floating hydrozoans. They do not sting humans but experts say you should not touch your face or eyes after handling them.
Researchers say that each apparent individual Velella velella is in fact a hydroid colony, and most are less than about 7 centimeters long.
“They sit at the surface of the ocean and have little sails and their movement depends on which way the wind is blowing,” Richard Brodeur, a fishery biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Newport, Oregon, research station told LiveScience.
Brodeur added that tons of the nautical creatures can be found at sea, but they don’t always come ashore. Recently, a large number of them have been washing up ashore.
“This happens every few years, where they get blown onto the beaches,” Bill Peterson, an oceanographer who is also stationed at NOAA Fisheries’ Newport location, told LiveScience. “In 2009 or 2010, the beach had piles of the creatures 2-feet to 3-feet thick and it stunk like heaven.”
These creatures tend to live in all the world’s oceans and depend on winds for moving around, and thereby are subject to mass-strandings on beaches.
Peterson added that even though this doesn’t happen every year, there is nothing unusual about these beach invasions.
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