The Blue Fleet

The doubtful guest went for a stroll on the beach in New South Wales and stumbled upon, and photographed beautifully:


five cool facts about bluebottles

1) they are not one animal but actually a colony of highly modified and co-operative individuals - the single pneumatophore or float, the stinging dactylozooids which capture the food, the gastrozooids which do the digesting and the gonozooids, in charge of reproduction.

2) they really f*cking hurt when they sting. the most effective relief for the pain is ice. a most excellent reason ensure you take a well-stocked esky to the beach.

3) they live at the mercy of the wind and currents. the course of their voyage is determined by the curvature of the float and the resistance of the rest of the colony underwater. the float can project to right or to the left, each form being influenced differently by the wind. thus the sailing angle of one form may lead to it to be washed up on the shore but others, sailing to the opposite side of the wind may well escape.

4) a severe bluebottle sting is no laughing matter, often causing major respiratory distress in humans. however, the bluebottle colony primarily feeds on teensy-tiny surface floating crustaceans and other planktonic fauna.

5) when bluebottle floats dry out in the sun they go all crispy and make a really cool popping noise when you stand on them. (note: freshly washed up bluebottles also pop nicely but the tentacles have a tendency to flick onto the top of your foot, which hurts like the blazes - definitely not recommended.)

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Blue Dragon

"A blue dragon, a pelagic sea slug which floats about the ocean on its back (that's it's belly and foot you're looking at) feeding on blue bottles."

Violet Snail

"violet snails also feed on blue bottles. they produce a "raft" of mucus bubbles, float about the oceans with the flocks of jellys, and, i imagine, chow down whenever the fancy takes them. this one had picked up a bunch of bivalve hitchhikers. "

Unidentified Spiral Cephalopod

"from what i can figure out, this is the (empty) shell of some kind of floating cephalopod, a squid i think. each chamber would be filled with gas to give it buoyancy, and the squid would add a new chamber to the end as it grew. the little shells stuck to it are rafting bivalves, hitching a free floating ride."

floating bivalves

"floating bivalves (mussels) stranded on the beach. the one in the centre kept sticking it's bits out, trying to figure out what exactly was happening and why the water had disappeared all of a sudden. poor little bugger."

Upside down porpita jellies and a little crab

Blue Button Jelly (close-up)

"the blue button jelly (Porpita porpita) forms part of the "blue fleet", a huge drifting community of organisms which includes the infamous bluebottle. the blue colour apparently provides protection against uv light and, i imagine it also provides quite an effective camoflage against predators hovering above. "

Blue Fleet

"the blue fleet is a term coined by Sir Alistair Hardy to describe a community of floating animals including the infamous bluebottle, blue dragon nudibranchs, violet snails and other associated organisms. a floating raft of monochrome drifters, the blue fleet sails the world's oceans at the whim of the tides, winds and currents. humans generally only become aware of them when they are blown onto beachs and become stranded en masse at the hightide line. "

Great stuff. If I lived near that beach, I can assure you that this blog would not exist.

click on images to see the original Flickr page. All photographs and descriptions in this post by the doubtful guest.

discovered via the wunderkammer pool


Drhoz said...

the 'bivalves' are crustaceans - goose barnacles