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Breezes blow little seafarers to local shores just like last spring

Read the San Diego Union Tribune Article
By Terry Rodgers 
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

April 23, 2003 

Jellyfish, like the one above are washing up on county beaches in bigger than normal numbers.

 A blue-hued jellyfish that normally lives far offshore has been turning up this week on beaches in San Diego County. 

The jellyfish, known as the by-the-wind sailor (Velella velella), is being blown ashore by sustained onshore winds, said Bob Burhans, a curator of fishes at the Stephen Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. 

Lifeguards confirmed that local beaches have been buffeted by four consecutive days of strong onshore winds. 

"As soon as the winds die down, we won't see them," Burhans said. "They are usually found hundreds of miles offshore." 

The same species came ashore last spring by the thousands along the Southern California coast. The landings so far this year appear to be less dense. 

Collectors from the Stephen Birch Aquarium were dispatched to capture some of the jellyfish offshore so the colorful creatures can be put on display for the public. 

"Once they get blown into the surf and pounded by the waves, they don't do very well," Burhans said. "This species is high on our list of animals to successfully display. We want to show animals from along our coast that the public doesn't see very often." 

By-the-wind sailors have a gelatinous sail – it looks like a dorsal fin – that is fixed at a 45-degree angle. Half grow sails that slant to the left, while the other half grow sails that slant to the right. This adaptation allows them to drift in opposite directions. 

Lifeguards from Imperial Beach to Del Mar said the jellyfish, which are about the size of a sand dollar, began coming ashore Monday. 
Although the by-the-wind sailor's body contains a few stinging cells, its sting usually has little or no effect on humans. 

"People are curious and have been picking them up and bringing them to us at our lifeguard tower," said lifeguard Sgt. Jim Lischer in Del Mar. 

Terry Rodgers

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