June 19, 2004

Western Beaches Littered With Strange Creatures

Memorial Day weekend I spent on the Oregon Coast in the lovely town of Cannon Beach, site of the famous Haystack Rock. Walking along the beach in the sun and squall, I was mystified at the mile upon mile of ocean creatures with little sails littering the beach that I'd never encountered before. Not knowing much about the varieties of ocean creatures, I thought I would never find out their name much less why they were found lining the beach.

Yet, just last week I was listening to KQED and one of the Perspectives pieces had someone talking about the slew of jellyfish-type creatures that were washing up on the shores of California called velellas. With a little Google and now the clue that they were related to types of medusas, I was able to find some pictures of what we saw. Now, the lovely little creatures had a name and story.

velella.bmp

Velella: the By-The-Wind Sailor Photo by Steve Trewhella

According to the Perspective piece, half of the velellas have a sail that causes them to trend east and so in the Pacific when the winds are right they land upon the western beaches of the Americas whereas others are flung west and fall on the coast of Asia. Velellas are found throughout the world in warm and temperate ocean waters. I found numerous reports of them on landing on the beaches of England.

Today when I head over to Santa Cruz, I'll see if these wonderous creatures can be found littering the beaches here as well.

Posted by Mary at June 19, 2004 06:14 PM | Environment | Technorati links |
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