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Portuguese Man o War

Submitted by admin on 2010-08-12

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The Portuguese Man o' War is sometimes incorrectly labeled by some as a Man o War Jellyfish, though the correct terms are either a Man-of-War, Blue Bottle or Portuguese Man of War, the Portuguese Man o' War gets its name from a type of Portuguese war vessel which was present in the 15th and 16th century and used a triangular sail, resembling the type of sail found on top of the Man o' War. While the Man o' War may have the appearance of a jellyfish, they are in fact highly unique creatures which while appearing as one organism, consist of 4 different zooids which all rely on each other to survive, this kind of almost multicellular organism is in fact under the order of siphonophorae. Another difference between the Portuguese Man o' War and a jellyfish is the fact that the Man o' War has no real means of self-propulsion and relies solely on the currents and winds to move.

The Portuguese Man o' War can deliver a nasty sting to the victim, much like that of a jellyfish. Both the Man o' War and the jellyfish have nematocysts, a type of barbed cell in their tentacles which they use for stinging their prey, which can often paralyze small fish. These stings can cause severe pain to humans, and in some cases require medical attention. There are various species of Man o' War which stings can have different effects, with some being more severe than others. Victims of Man o' War stings often tend to confuse the sting for that of a jellyfish. The initial reaction after a sting will be a burning sensation, which will usually disappear within a matter of hours. While vinegar is often thought to help with the stings, if anything it in fact makes it worse, as does fresh water, splashing the sting in salt water is recommended. Post-sting, the victim may be left with red welts on their skin which can last for a couple of days. In rare cases stings can lead to heart and lung problems and even death.

The Portuguese Man o' War's primary predator is the loggerhead turtle which because of its thick skin- is able to easily consume them without the risk of being stung. Other predators which tend to feast on the Man o' War include the sunfish and the blanket octopus, an amazing creature itself, which not only uses the Man o' War for food, but has also been documented to remove the tentacles of the Man o' War and use them for its own protection.

Structurally the Portuguese Man o' War has an air bladder which is what you see floating above the water, attached to this bubble-like feature is a sail which is also inflated, by means of gas secretions by the Man o' War, though the sail can deflate and allow the Man o' War to submerge just below the surface of the water. The tentacles of the Man o' War are generally around 30 feet long, but can reach in excess of 60 feet in some cases. The colour of the Portuguese Man o' War are typically a shade of blue or purple, hence the name 'Blue Bottle'.

The Portuguese Man o' War can be found throughout much of the world, though are typically found in the warm waters of the tropics and sub-tropics. The Man o' War is quite a common sight in many parts of Australia and accounts for in excess of 10 000 stings each year. In False Bay, South Africa they can come ashore with the blowing of an on-shore wind. They are also commonly found along the East Coast of South Africa. Other areas where the Man o' War has been spotted include: Wales, Costa Rica, Malta, Guyana, New Zealand, Ireland, Pakistan, Florida, Spain and numerous other countries.

The Man o’ War can be of a particular nuisance to scuba divers. When scuba diving, you are likely to be wearing a suit and gloves, though this is not always the case, and many of the suits used in the warm waters where the Man o’ War is prevalent will not be full suits. Even in cases where divers are diving with full suits there is always the possibility of the Man o’ War tentacles to touch the divers face, or hands if he is not using gloves. In many cases, if too many Man o’ War are present during a dive, the dive may be abandoned.


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