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Portugese Man O’ War

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So you’re enjoying a day soaking up the sun on the beach, when you see a beautiful alien like blue ball drifting your way.  It’s sparkling brilliantly in the sun in the most intriguing way, your first instinct may me to reach out and inspect this oddity that crossed your path, but beware this is called the Portuguese man of war and it was named that for a reason.

Commonly mistaken for a jellyfish this is an odd creature for sure; “it” is actually a “they”.  This is siphonophore, which is an animal made up of several different organisms working together.  The Portuguese man of war is made up of four different polyps. It gets it’s name from the upper most polyp which somewhat resembles an old warship at full sale.  This is actually a gas filled chamber which can range from a beautiful blue or a deep purple.

The second organism of this bizarre sea creature is where you can get into some real trouble, the long thin tendrils.  You defiantly don’t want to mess with these things, they are venom filled nematocyst typically used to paralyze and kill fish and small creatures.

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The still is not fatal to humans, but it is extremely painful. And you can save yourself the humiliation of urinating on the sting site; contrary to a popular TV show this will do nothing to ease your discomfort.  These nasty tendrils can grow up to 30 feet, and still deliver a painful sting even if the organism is washed up on shore.

The third and fourth organisms are used for reproduction and drawing the prey up to the poly for digesting. Man-of-wars can sometimes be found drifting along in ground of 1,000 or more.  They are truly drifters, as they have no self propulsion, they simply let the wind and the currents take them where they may.

 

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Wendy Aburto

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