Beachgoers in San Luis Obispo County are noticing the dry, thin remains of a little known sea creature that have washed ashore by the thousands over the past couple of weeks.
The small, blue jellyfish-like creatures are velellas, an invertebrate that lives in huge colonies on the surface of the ocean.
Since mid-July, velellas have been washing onto beaches from Oregon to California, including in Morro Bay, which has seen hundreds on the sands of Morro Strand State Beach.
"It's a little unusual to have them show up this late in the year,” said Vince Cicero, an environmental scientist with California State Parks. “I think most of them seem to be up north. It could be that they had a bloom and with these onshore winds that aren't too unusual this time of year, they probably just blew onto shore.”
Cicero said it’s been a while since San Luis Obispo County has seen such a large number of velellas on local beaches. “Seems like 6 or 7 years ago we had a pretty big influx of them in May or June.”
While the creatures appear to be like jellyfish, they’re not related. Velellas are actually related to the venomous Portuguese man o’ war, but are not dangerous. “They do disappear pretty rapidly and a few people have called and asked questions if they’re harmful or not and they’re really not,” said Cicero.