‘Sailors’ turn beaches blue

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - TOM HUNT

Mil­lions of star­tling blue jel­ly­fish-like crea­tures have washed up on beaches around Welling­ton.

The coast at Makara, west of the city, was thick with them and they had been wash­ing up for days, Hay­don Miller said on Sun­day. ‘‘You are talk­ing mil­lions.’’ While there were some blue­bot­tle jel­ly­fish among them, most of the crea­tures ap­peared to be ‘‘by the wind sailors’’, which also go by the name velella.

They are about seven cen­time­tres long, each with small stiff sail that catches the wind and pro­pels them across the sea.

More of the crea­tures were washed up on the beach at Pukerua Bay, on the Ka¯piti Coast, north of Welling­ton.

Ac­cord­ing to Live­science.com, the crea­tures are not true jel­ly­fish, but are re­lated to them.

They float on the ocean sur­face and are blown by the wind.

‘‘A Velella’s elec­tric-blue body hangs down into the water, with sting­ing ten­ta­cles that cap­ture small prey such as tiny shrimp and plank­ton.’’

The blue colour pro­tects them from the sun’s ul­tra­vi­o­let ra­di­a­tion. ‘‘In the ocean, float­ing snails, sea slugs and sun­fish will gob­ble up the gelati­nous crea­tures for meals.

‘‘Al­though velella tox­ins are harm­less to hu­mans, it’s not a good idea to han­dle the jelly crea­tures and then touch your eyes or mouth. The velella neu­ro­toxin might cause itch­ing.’’

Miller said the crea­tures had been wash­ing up on the Makara coast for a few days, and some had be­gun to smell.

Strand­ings of the crea­ture are not un­com­mon, but it was the first time he had seen them at Makara.

Ear­lier in Oc­to­ber, a swarm of vel­lella washed up on Ca­ble Bay, near Nel­son, and an­other lot washed up in Taranaki.

HAY­DON MILLER

Tiny sea crea­tures called Valella have washed up in their mil­lions at Makara, on Welling­ton’s west coast.

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