The Deadly Portuguese Man o’ War

The Portuguese man o’ war, (Physalia physalis) is better known as a jellyfish, but is in fact a kind of siphonophore, a grouping of creatures that are directly associated with jellyfish. A siphonophore is extraordinary in that it consists of a colony of unique, genetically similar individuals known as zooids — clones — with numerous kinds and features, all operating together as one. Every single one of the 4 specific areas of a man o’ war is liable for a particular task, like floating, getting prey, eating, and reproduction. Situated generally in tropical and subtropical oceans, men o’ war are moved by winds and ocean currents on their own, and at times drift in legions of 1,000 or even more!

Every single one of the 4 specific areas of a man o’ war is liable for a particular task, like floating, getting prey, eating, and reproduction. Situated generally in tropical and subtropical oceans, men o’ war are moved by winds and ocean currents on their own, and at times drift in legions of 1,000 or even more!portuguese man o’ war 2

Similar to an 18th-century Portuguese warship under complete sail, the man o’ war is known by the balloon-like float, which can be azure, violet or even pink and goes up to 6 inches above the waterline. Hiding below the float are extended fibers of tentacles and polyps that develop to approximately 30 feet and may expand by around 100 feet.

The tentacles include powerful nematocysts, tiny pills full of coiled, barbed pipes that produce venom able to paralyzing and eliminating small fish and also crustaceans. Although the man o’ war’s sting is rarely lethal to people, it groups an agonizing punch and will cause welts on uncovered skin.