BATHERS in Cala Egos were surprised to find hundreds of velellas stranded on the beach last weekend.
Incidents such as this are not uncommon as, under certain wind conditions, large numbers of these creatures, which are commonly called sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail or little sail, may be stranded on beaches.
According to Wikipedia, velella is “a cosmopolitan genus of free-floating hydrozoans that live on the surface of the open ocean” and are related to the Portuguese man o’war. The creatures are usually deep blue in colour with their most obvious feature being a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels the velella over the surface of the sea.
Tentacles hanging underneath are used to catch prey which is usually plankton. Although the creatures may be mistaken for jellyfish, they are harmless to people because their tentacles cannot penetrate the skin.
They may, however cause minor problems if they come into contact with a wound or eyes.