Definitions for velella
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Any of the genus Velella of free-floating marine protozoans.
Origin: From the genus name.
any species of oceanic Siphonophora belonging to the genus Velella
Origin: [NL., dim. from L. velum a veil, a sail.]
Velella is a cosmopolitan genus of free-floating hydrozoans that live on the surface of the open ocean. There is only one known species, Velella velella, in the genus. Velella velella is commonly known by the names sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail, little sail, or simply Velella. These small cnidarians are part of a specialised ocean surface community which includes the better-known cnidarian siphonophore, the Portuguese Man o' War. Specialized predatory gastropod mollusks prey on these cnidarians. Such predators include nudibranchs in the genus Glaucus and purple snails in the genus Janthina. Each apparent individual Velella velella is in fact a hydroid colony, and most are less than about 7 cm long. They are usually deep blue in colour, but their most obvious feature is a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them over the surface of the sea. Under certain wind conditions, they may be stranded by the thousand on beaches. Like other Cnidaria, Velella velella is carnivorous. They catch their prey, generally plankton, by means of tentacles that hang down in the water and bear cnidocysts. Though the toxins in their nematocysts are effective against their prey, V. velella is harmless to humans, either because its nematocysts are unable to pierce the skin, or perhaps because humans do not react to the toxins encapsulated in their nematocysts. Nevertheless, it is wise to avoid touching one's face or eyes after handling V. velella.
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