Be careful out there – dozens of poisonous Man-of-War jellyfish have recently been found on a number of beaches in Devon and Cornwall.
Although they typically look like jellyfish, Portuguese Man-of-War are not a conventional sea creature and are actually a colony of organisms working together. In terms of size they can be over 12 inches long but their tentacles are a different story and they can grow to an amazing 160 feet long.
But they can vary in appearance and one report from Longrock in Cornwall described them as looking like “something out of Ghostbusters”!
They are highly venomous and can produce excruciating stings on humans with their tentacles but they are rarely deadly. And beach lovers need to be careful even with the dead ones they find washed up on the shore as they can still deliver a nasty sting.
With further research we can see just how unique this form of creature is. Indeed it’s not even an “it” it’s a “they”. The Man-of-War is actually classified as a siphonophore and they are one of nature’s unique self contained lifeforms.
They are covered in “venom filled nematocysts” which paralyze and kill the fish that are unlucky enough to get in contact with them.
Another interesting fact about the Man-of-War is that by themselves they have no means of propulsion and are usually found drifting in warm oceans, so it is probably no surprise to hear that the reasons for their appearance in the UK include climate change which has extended their range further north.
Experts also believe that the overfishing of species such as tuna and sailfish which are the man-of-war’s natural predators has meant that they are growing in number worldwide.
The Portuguese Man-of-War is also known to travel across the oceans in a unique manner as they move together in a long line of up to a mile in length.
And to answer a common question, the name “Man-of-War” comes from the “man o’ war”, an 18th-century sailing warship,and the species’ resemblance to the Portuguese version at full sail.
PUBLISHED: December 9, 2019
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