(KTLA) — Look, but don’t touch. That’s the message from marine biologists as Southern California sees an influx of jellyfish-like creatures known as Velella velella, or By-the-Wind Sailors.
On Saturday, Dana Wharf Whale Watching in Orange County posted a video of the strange, purple blobs that travel with the ocean currents and winds.
Beachgoers say they are washing ashore by the thousands along the Southern California coast, including at Huntington Beach, Zuma Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Salt Creek Beach. They have also been spotted further north.
By-the-Wind sailors are known as colonial hydroids, meaning they’re comprised of a colony of tiny creatures, similar to the Portuguese Man O’War. The animals aren’t classified as jellyfish, despite their jelly-like appearance.
They feed on algae and zooplankton and are a favorite meal for sunfish, according to Nona the Naturalist with Dana Wharf Whale Watching.
When they wash up on beaches, the creatures can look like “deflated balloons” or pieces of plastic. They also start to lose their color as they dry on land.
They’ve washed up along the California coastline en masse before. Between 2014 and 2016, several hundred thousand By-the-Wind Sailors blanketed West Coast beaches and drew crowds to check them out, the Orange County Register reported.
Like jellyfish, By-the-Wind Sailors also have stinging cells, so marine biologists say people should avoid touching them. But generally, they are not considered to be dangerous to humans.