By-the-wind sailors are cousins of Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish

As the tide receded along a South Florida beach on this crisp March day, some beachgoers noticed a small object stranded at the high tide line. It is the same size and shape as a human ear. They are electric blue and deep purple, the same color and texture as the Portuguese soldiers commonly seen on Florida beaches.

Only these less common “jellyfish” seem to lack the long, stinging tentacles of their more common cousins. Therefore, if swimmers accidentally come into contact with them, there is little to worry about other than perhaps mild irritation.

He is known as the “Sailor in the Wind.” Velera Velera Although technically they are hydrozoans, they are commonly called “jellyfish” and are closely related species. They spend most of their days “sailing” on offshore currents, and little is known about when or how long they stay on Treasure Coast beaches.

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Portuguese soldiers usually wash ashore during winter and early spring, around October-November and February-March, but there is no definitive season for sailors on the wind.

They are brilliantly designed to spend most, if not all, of their lives far offshore. They have a flat, S-shaped “sail” protruding from their bodies that allows them to swim successfully in the ocean, facing one direction in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. However, changes in the wind can cause them to wash up on the beach.

“They’re found all over the world, and if you see them along our coasts, it’s usually at the same time as people at war,” said Zach Judd, director of education and exhibits at the Florida Marine Society in Stuart. “It can be seen in this,” he says. “I was fishing offshore and found millions of fish floating along with the current.”

There were Portuguese fighters on the beaches of Hutchinson Island last week, but nothing has washed up since the winds changed from southeast to northwest.

Sailors riding the wind are often here today and gone tomorrow. Judd occasionally receives calls and photos from people she sees on the waves or beaches in Martin or St. Lucie, but not recently like in Palm Beach County, said Lt. Morgan Harmon of St. Lucie County Marine Rescue. Told.

“There are no jellyfish and no fighters today,” Harmon said Tuesday.

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why are they so blue?

It’s hard to imagine something barely controlling its movements as the hunter rather than the hunted. But that’s what these things do, Judd said. They feed on zooplankton and the larval stages of other organisms such as fish that drift in the same ocean currents.

However, their color is the key to their survival and success. The deep blue helps sailors maintain camouflage, much like a turkey hunter hiding in a blind. Both hunters are waiting for prey to approach.

“It’s not so much camouflage as being invisible to predators, it’s to avoid being noticed by prey,” Judd said.

Sea turtles are known to eat many different types of jellyfish, so they’ll probably eat wind-borne sailors, too. There are also several marine gastropods that eat sea slugs, including green sea slugs and other floating sea slugs, Judd said.

Ed Killer is TCPalm’s outdoor writer. Please email

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