velella velella jellyfish

Invasion Of Thousands Of Jellyfish Hits South Florida Beach

An invasion of jellyfish covered a large portion of South Florida’s coastline this week. Lifeguards were surprised to find the shoreline of Hallandale Beach was covered with the creatures, according to the Hallandale Beach’s Facebook page. The beach is located about 18 miles north of Miami.

“This happens about every three years. We are flying our Purple flag for dangerous marine life,” city officials said.

At this time, there is no way to predict exactly when an invasion of this type of jellyfish will occur, according to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

jellyfish invasion south Florida beach

The jellyfish, which appear to be a bluish, purplish color, are called Velella velella and are also known as “purple sailors” or “by-the-wind sailors.” Since they often travel with Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, officials are warning beach goers the man-of-war jellyfish could have washed up on the Florida beach along with the purple sailors.

As a matter of fact, the Velella velella jellyfish are often mistaken for the man-of-war jellyfish. While the purple sailors are not dangerous to humans and aren’t known to sting humans, the Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish carry toxins that can leave a painful sting and welts on the skin.

“They are the exact same color as a Portuguese man o’ war but do not sting,” Marine Safety Chief Bruce Wilkie told the Sun Sentinel. “They are much smaller and do not have the long tentacles.”

Though the Velella velella jellyfish aren’t dangerous to beach goers, people are advised to avoid rubbing their eyes or putting their fingers in their mouths if they happen to touch one of the jellyfish.

According to jellywatch.org, the jellyfish float partly above water with appendages that are shaped to help them move about in the water. About the size of the palm of a human’s hand, measuring 1 to 3 inches long, the bodies of these jellyfish are designed to help them “sail” away from shore. They usually live far away from the beach out in open waters in the ocean, but strong winds and ocean currents can still carry them onto beaches.

Due to the fact that the Velella velella sail only downwind, when they are blown to the beach, it’s in high numbers reaching into the millions. Their little sails are exactly what can cause them to run ashore.

Charles Messing, a marine biology professor at the Nova Southeastern University, told the Sun Sentinel the sails of the jellyfish are the reason why they were able to invade the south Florida beach.

“They’re an interesting addition to our beaches, when the wind blows in the right direction at the right time of year. I expect they’re all up and down the coast of southeast Florida.”

The diet of the velella velella jellyfish is mostly plankton, which they catch with their small tentacles that contain nematocysts, toxins that help immobilize their prey, the Weather Channel reports.

According to NBC Miami, the beach in south Florida was mostly cleared of the jellyfish invasion on Friday morning.

“Public works beach tractor did rake up numerous [jellyfish], but they continue to wash up and cleanup will be a gradual process,” officials said.

Similar incidents of jellyfish invasions occurred on beaches in the Pacific Northwest in 2015.

[Image via City of Hallandale/Facebook]

Comments