The Portuguese Man O’ War, or Portuguese Man of War, is a dangerous species of a marine cnidarian. Its numerous tentacles remain capable of delivering extremely painful stings.
The animal is often mistaken for the common jellyfish but the Portuguese Man O’ War is actually a siphonophore. Their bodies consist of numerous individual zooids (an 18th-century single animal that is part of a larger animal) living together, as a colony creature. Each zooid adapted to serve a specific function within the whole.
The Portuguese Man of War’s unique name comes from their supposed resemblance to an 18th-century sailing vessel at full sail.
Portuguese Man O War Range and Habitat
The species lives entirely on the surface of the ocean. The gas-filled bladder known as the pneumatophore stays on the surface, keeping the creature afloat. The rest of its body remains submerged. The numerous tentacles drag along beneath and behind the Portuguese Man O’ War. These sometimes attain lengths of as much as 160 ft (50 m).
The animals possess no means of independent motion. They stay entirely at the mercy of the wind and ocean currents. As a result, they may be found virtually anywhere in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. Further, strong winds often blow them ashore on beaches.
Portuguese Man O War Toxicity
The tentacles of the Portuguese Man O War contain a powerful toxin which is paralyzing and often fatal to the small fish it feeds upon. The toxin is not generally fatal to humans, barring allergic reactions or partial paralysis from numerous stings while in deep water.
This species is responsible for more than 10,000 human stings per year, in Australia alone.
Even after the death of the creature, the tentacles may deliver a fully potent sting many hours, or even days afterward. Its sting generates intense pain and creates large red welts among human victims. Extreme symptoms such as fever, shock, or heart failure are possible but rare.