'Thousands' of jellyfish-like creatures wash up on Cornwall beach

-Credit: (Image: Friends of Portheras Cove)
-Credit: (Image: Friends of Portheras Cove)

'Thousands' of a jellyfish-like creature washed up on a beach in Cornwall this week. A huge pile of the unusual creature is thought to have been blown in by strong winds.

The Friends of Portheras Cove, who take care of the beach in North West Cornwall, say they arrived to a "sad" sight on Thursday (May 23). They estimate that thousands of by-the-wind-sailors had been blown onto the beach.

According to Cornwall Wildlife Trust, by-the-wind-sailors are a type of colonial hydroid. They are similar to Portuguese Man O'Wars as they are made up of a colony of different organisms that live together to make it look like one animal.

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The species gets its name from its characteristic 'sail' which allows them to catch the wind and travel on ocean currents. It can be identified by its blue-purple oval disc and a thin semi-circular fin diagonally across the top. The creature also has short tentacles which hang down into the water. These are used to sting prey, such as young fish and other small animals but aren't thought to be harmful to humans.

They are typically found washed up in their hundreds and thousands after stormy weather as they are completely at the mercy of the winds. Friends of Portheras Cove believe the group that washed up on the beach this week were brought in by strong, on-shore, north westerly winds.

In a Facebook post, the Friends of Portheras Cove wrote: "Mass stranding of 1000s of By-the-Wind-Sailors at the cove today due to the strong on-shore North Westerlies. So sad to see these amazing creatures like this.

'Thousands' of by-the-wind-sailors washed up on Portheras Cove Beach -Credit:Friends of Portheras Cove
'Thousands' of by-the-wind-sailors washed up on Portheras Cove Beach -Credit:Friends of Portheras Cove

"They are tiny hydrozoans, each one a colony of different organisms all living together in harmony so they look like one single animal. The top 'sail' section allows them to float atop the waves drifting with the tides and winds but they are completely at the mercy of the elements and so cannot steer away from the shore if the wind takes then in that direction!

"Although they are related to the larger, and more dangerous Portuguese-Man-o-War these little fellows are not harmful to us (though we wouldn't encourage your dogs sniffing or licking them!). Mother Nature's designs (as always) are the most beautiful."