Monday, 6 October 2014

Do Not Fear the Sailor 'Jellyfish' Invasion

By Cathy Lucas, University of Southampton | October 05, 2014 07:17pm ET

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The publication contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Billions of small, jellyfish-like creatures known as “by-the-wind sailors” have washed ashore all along the west coast of North America this summer, from southern California to British Columbia. Images of vast swarms of electric-blue sails covering the ocean’s surface and littering the sand are indeed spectacular, but people might well wonder what exactly these strange-looking beings actually are. And this of course leads to the next question – should we be afraid of them?

Velella velella (to give them their scientific name) are often assumed to be a type of jellyfish but, while biology does lump them in with jellyfish, sea anenomes, and corals in a group known as Cnidaria, Velellas are not all that closely related to the common or moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita.

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