A deadly beauty, the Portuguese Man-O-War “Jellyfish”

There are many beautiful creatures in the ocean and the Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish is no exception. Their colors and beauty will draw you in and make you want to get closer to them, but I would only recommend this if you want to get stung. The reason this is such an intriguing species is it is not simply one creature, it is a group of creatures working together, organisms to be exact. This species is of the family Physaliidae and is the single genus in its family. It is, however, not really a jellyfish at all. It is a member of the species known as the siphonophore, which has a meaning that refers to the fact they float. The Portuguese man-o-war species is related quite closely to the jellyfish.

It is actually a hydrozoan that floats that is made up into a colony. It is composed of 4 different polyps that are all different types as well. The four types are dactylozooids (which are named for the prey they capture and defense), pneumatophore (which was named after it’s floating quality), gonozooids (which are named and used for reproduction), and lastly gastrozooids (which are names and used for feeding).

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Their colors are not mistakable, as they are often a blue color, they can also be around 30 cm for size. Their shape is similar to an oblong, and the top is filled with gas. The name of this creature comes from the shape of this bladder that sits on top of the water, it looks very similar to the warships from the 18th century, that were at full sail. The colors of their tentacles range from a purple to a blue color, and they can reach lengths of up to 50 m. They have also managed to find fossils of these creatures that seem to date as far back as 600 million years!

portuguese man-o-warThe Portuguese Man-O-War Habitat

The species is a marine animal that is known as a pelagic type, this means that it is blown around by the wind and the currents and that it does not swim on its own. The top of this creature stays above water and only dips down to keep itself from drying out. The animal is nearly invisible due to its colors on the backdrop of the ocean. They float either to the left or right of the wind direction to move. This is how the species turns up in many oceans throughout the world. They have recently been sighted often in the Jersey Shores. These species are often floating in groups of thousands, definitely not a group you want to be in the middle of.

The Portuguese Man-O-War are more likely to be found in the tropical, warm waters in the oceans of the world. They are most commonly found in the Pacific Ocean, Sargasso Sea, Indiana Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and even in the Caribbean.

How to not get stung

First of all, the most obvious is, don’t touch it. You would think that this is obvious, but in reality, it can be one of the most frequent ways a person gets stung. This creature, even when dead can still pack quite the punch. It is common sense to know that, if you don’t touch this creature it can’t harm you, but just in case you didn’t know, don’t touch it. Another important thing to remember, that should be something obvious as well, is listen to the lifeguards. When you are swimming about and these creatures come about, they are not easy to avoid. Their tentacles reach 8 feet below the surface.

What to do if stung?

If you happen to get stung by this creature, don’t panic! First of all, there is a rumor of what you were supposed to do to remove the sting… but please don’t do that. My first tip, is do not pee on the sting. There are a few shows and rumors that have spread that peeing on a sting of the jellyfish will make the sting go away.

This is not true. In 2011 there was a study done that proved this theory wrong. It can actually make the sting from a jellyfish worse! Experts and lifeguards agree on this. Instead, you may want to put your foot into the sea water. Try not to attempt to scrape the skin with a credit card or razor either, it will only cause more pressure to the sting and make it worse. You also do not want to wash it out with fresh water either, it can make the sting much worse with discharge. Of course, if it is not corrected with any of these, be sure to seek medical attention.

portuguese man-o-warIn the news?

The Portuguese man-o-war has been appearing in the news a lot lately. They are showing up on Long Beach Island in NJ for the past weeks. The lifeguards post signs and other information to get the locals to know what is what. It was a rare occurrence to see them in this area. It is most common near the Florida Keys. They are now becoming a more and more frequent occurrence. The Man-O-War are not invading, however, nor are they migrating. The creatures are not moving on their own so they cannot actually migrate.

 What does it eat?

The Portuguese Man-O-War has a diet that varies from fish, to their larvae, to chaetognaths, cephalopods, and eel larvae. Their prey is always soft in body their nematocysts stop them from being able to capture any hard bodied prey. They eat close to 120 larvae of fish per day. Most of which is only available in the reach of 0-5 m from the surface, so they do not go very far for their food. To hunt, they move their tentacles out to their full length, and they act like a large floating net.

Their tentacles look very similar to some fish in order to lure in prey; Once they have them, they stun and entangle them. Their next move is to bring this prey in close to the polyps in order to allow them to release enzymes from their digestive systems in order to make their catch turn into liquid.

What eats the Portuguese Man-O-War?

There are a lot of predators for this creature. Including the sand crab from the pacific. They grab them from the low waters. These crabs are actually immune to the sting of this jelly. A certain type of mollusks are also a predator. They use the man-o-wars mechanisms as a defense after eating them. Loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles are other predators. Due to the fact that plastic bags look similar to this creature; The turtles also ingest this and end up getting sick from this.