Stranded Sailor

By-the-wind Sailor

Velella velella

Byron Bay NSW 2481, Australia

29 September 2020

This By-The-Wind Sailor greeted me after finally exiting internal New South Wales and reaching the coast at Byron Bay. The dramatic lighting on this azure fellow highlighting the bent sun at my back driving the long hours east.

By-The-Wind Sailors are cnidarians, related to the Portuguese Man O' War, floating stingy sentinels found all over the world. As their name suggests, they're called wherever the wind takes them, feeding on plankton in the open ocean. Unlike their European maritime combat oriented cousins, these sailor's stings tend not to harm humans. Though, the first rule of things that sting is not to check. It's actually unclear if this is one animal or many. Depending on who you ask, this may be classified as a colony of individual polyps working together or a "highly modified individual hydroid polyp, and not a colonial hydrozoa". Perhaps we're reaching the current bounds of taxonomy.

This is the polyp phase of the sailor's life cycle, with medusae, egg and sperm, and larva phases. Sailors may be left or right "sailed" in equal numbers, each going a different direction, presumably so that a strong wind won't beach everyone.