(Above) 'By-the-wind sailor' (Velella velella) © Peter Tinsley
Hundreds of ‘By-the-wind sailor’s’ (Velella velella) have washed up on beaches on the South Coast, following the prolonged and strong on-shore winds from storm Desmond. Bournemouth and Boscombe Beaches and Lyme Bay are just some of the places they’ve been spotted.
DWT Marine Awareness Officer, Julie Hatcher said, “Mass strandings regularly occur on Atlantic Coasts but not so often in Dorset. This happens following prolonged and strong on-shore winds blowing these creatures in from the open ocean where they normally live.
Basically they consist of an oval-shaped float with feeding tentacles below and a triangular sail on top. The wind blows them around but interestingly there are both ‘left-handed’ and ‘right-handed’ individuals depending on which way their sail is positioned. This helps to distribute them so some sail in one direction and others in the other direction. If they capsize they can right themselves!”
They are not jellyfish or harmful to humans
DWT Marine Conservation Officer, Emma Rance added: “Although they look like a jellyfish, they are not. They are actually a colony of cohabiting polyps! They are similar to jellyfish in that they use stinging cells to capture their prey but this is in no way harmful to us as it cannot penetrate our skin.”
Let us know of any sightings
Please let Dorset Wildlife Trust know of any sightings via our Twitter account @dorsetwildlife or facebook.co.uk/dorsetwildlife