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By the Wind Sailor - Velella velella
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By-the-wind sailors are a type of jelly that are easily distinguished from any other species. They are generally about two inches wide and have a transparent bluish to purple flat oval float. A relatively large sail stands vertically on this float to help them move. The sail is oriented diagonally to the long axis of the animal to take advantage of winds that will keep them out at sea. Individuals that are found in different parts of the world have different sail orientations. Individuals off California tend to be "right-handed" (have their sail orientated to the right) while those in the western Pacific tend to be "left-handed." Large numbers of by-the-wind sailors come ashore when our prevailing winds shift and change from our typical northerlies to strong, prolonged westerly or southerly winds.

By the Wind Sailor
(Velella velella)

Warm and temperate seas throughout the world, in the eastern Pacific form British Columbia to Mexico

Surface waters of the open ocean

Small prey and fish that are immediately below the surface


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
By-the-wind sailors are colonial animals and as such, are made up of many individual animals, called zooids, each with a specialized function. Some individual zooids make up the float others provide the reproductive function for the colony. The gastrozooids provide food for the colony using their tentacles to capture plankton.

Learn More
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- Jellies Zone
- Marine Life Information Network