Those Blue Things Along SF Bay Area Beaches Aren’t Dangerous AF Jellyfish

But they are still jellyfish, and in fact, quite interesting, with stings similar to ants.

Unless you live under the proverbial rock with little to no cell phone reception, you’ve probably heard about this. “Those blue things” line the beaches around San Francisco. When we first looked into it, the following image immediately came to many people’s minds (including me): portuguese man jellyfish — Cnidarians are notorious for their striking beauty and tentacles that can immobilize small fish almost instantly, or cause searing pain when they touch human flesh. (Only one Portuguese man-o-war death has been recorded, and this death was accompanied by a severe allergic reaction to the neurotoxin.)

These multiple creatures are made up of four stylized polyps, or “zooids,” with an almost patchwork appearance and a unique ability to float in the ocean. But I digress. These needle-lined sailboats are not one of the hundreds that wash up on the shores near San Francisco.

According to an Instagram post by the Parks Conservancy, the animals piled up on the beach are Berella Berera, also known as the “Sailor in the Wind.” These hydrozoans are the only animals in the family Urinidae, and these otherworldly floating hydrozoans live on the surface of the open ocean.

Typically, these tiny jellyfish are not much different from other gelatinous jellyfish, living far offshore in the open ocean, feeding on microorganisms. When they mature, their tiny sails become active, an evolutionary adaptation that helps them distribute across the globe by wind power. But they don’t have the ability to control these diseases.

Because they only sail downwind or at a slight angle to the wind, it is not uncommon for literally millions of them to pile up on the shore, especially when there are gusty winds offshore. This is *exactly* what has happened in recent weeks, causing a social media spread.

Questions remain. Can these cnidarians (jellyfish found in oceans around the world) sting humans even if they wash ashore? answer? yes. Nematocysts are small harpoon-like nematodes that appear naked to the human eye and can erupt when brushed and puncture human skin, but are not a threat to humans. And like all Hydras, their bells (i.e. squishy tops) don’t have these stingers…but that’s not an invitation to mess with them in any way.

As with any wild animal, whether on land or off-shore, leave it alone, even if it is not alive, and do not move the decomposing carcass. Mother Nature has a funny way of getting the job done without any human help.

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