purple sailor jellyfish

Jellyfish Invade South Florida: Thousands Of Purple Sailors Wash Ashore Near Miami

Jellyfish have invaded South Florida’s Hallandale Beach. Thousands of jellyfish washed ashore on the popular beach, which is located about 18 miles north of Miami.

Strong ocean currents and intense winds are often to blame when copious amounts of jellyfish are washed ashore. When the wind blows up into the fins of the delicate-looking little sea creatures, their bodies begin to act akin to a sailboat, and they blow with the direction of the wind — typically onto the shore.

The Velella velella jellyfish, which began converging upon the South Florida beach, are blue and purple in color, according to the Hallandale Beach municipal Facebook page.

“The city workers cleaned them up this morning,” Hallandale Beach city representative Peter Dobens said during an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “But as the waves and the tide come in, more of them come in. They’re still coming ashore up and down the area.”

This variety of jellyfish is frequently referred to as “purple sailors,” or “by-the-wind sailors,” CNN reports. These jellyfish are known to be rather benign and not sting beachgoers and are largely considered safe to both swim and walk around on the beach.

The tiny bodies of the jellyfish measure between one and three inches long. They use their thin, long tentacles to catch their food and not to sting. They reportedly hitch rides on the Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, the type of jellyfish which boasts strong toxins that can result in a very painful sting.

“This happens about every three years. We are flying our Purple flag for dangerous marine life,” said a statement by Hallandale Beach on Facebook. “Public works beach tractor did rake up numerous, but they continue to wash up and cleanup will be a gradual process.”

Nova Southeastern University marine biology professor Charles Messing had this to say about the invasion of the jellyfish when he rushed to John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach to experience the event for himself.

“There are bajillions of them. This is a huge landing. You walk 10 feet of beach and can see hundreds and hundreds in just a few paces. They are beautiful. 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 purple sailor jellyfish live close to the surface. One of the most intriguing aspects of the Velella jellyfish involves the sea creature becoming a “hydroid colony which has flipped itself over,” according to Jellyfish Watch. These jellyfish do not live their lives attached to rocks but exist on the substrate of the ocean.

“These hydroid colonies bud off tiny medusae, little jellyfish, just like many benthic hydroids do. The medusae live, feed, and reproduce in surface waters,” the jellyfish website also notes.

The by-the-wind sailors jellyfish most commonly live far from shore in the open sea. Their tiny “sails” cause them to be moved about broadly at the whim of ocean winds. They do not sail or fly up into the sky. The purple sailors can be blown only slightly upward at an angle or downward further into the water. The colonies are often dispersed together in drift rows and create the sudden and massive influx on the shore as is now happening in South Florida.

Even though the purple sailors jellyfish are not known to pose a threat to humans via a sting, local officials are still warning beachgoers not to touch their mouth or rub their eyes without first washing their hands if they have touched a Velella jellyfish.

What do you think about the thousands of purple sailor jellyfish washing ashore in South Florida?

[Image by Shutterstock.com]

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