Gone in one gulp! The tiny “by-the-wind-sailors” that have been appearing on area beaches also happen to be a favorite snack of the enormous ocean sunfish (mola mola), which can grow to be the size of a small car! (Jodi Frediani)
By-the-wind sailors (Velella velella) are actually hydroid polyps—jelly-like invertebrates.The “sail” helps propel the animal on its journey across the ocean. In late spring and early autumn, hundreds of thousands of these drifting sailors wash up on the beaches of Northern California.
The velella stays on the surface of the open ocean for most of its life. To remain buoyant in the ocean, it has a series of sealed air chambers in its float. They travel in groups of thousands, and capture small fish with short tentacles that have stinging cells dangling underwater. (Although their sting is strong enough to stun a tiny animal, a human being would barely feel it.)
Learn more about the ocean sunfish