CAPE CANAVERAL and COCOA BEACH, Florida – Small, oval sea creatures with a transparent sail and blue bottom are washing ashore on Brevard County beaches.
By-the-Wind Sailors, also called sea rafts or Velella velella, are catching the prevailing southeasterly winds that have already blown ashore Portuguese Man-o-War on Florida’s east coast.
By-the-Wind Sailors aren’t jellyfish. They are siphonophores – a colony of separate specialized organisms that only appear to be one marine animal.
Although they are related to Portuguese Man-o-War, Velella do not have a powerful sting to humans. Instead, their venom produces a slight itchiness to people who are not allergic to the toxin.
Velella feed on plankton. Their natural predators are Blue Sea Dragons which have also been spotted on Florida’s east coast this month.
Velella usually remain far out in the open sea and are not often seen on Florida’s beaches unless a persistent wind blows these natural tiny blue sailboats onto the beach.