The name "man o' war" comes from the man-of-war, an 18th-century armed sailing ship, and the cnidarian's supposed resemblance to the Portuguese version at full sail. The Portuguese man o' war lives at the surface of the ocean. The gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, stays at the surface, while the remainder is submerged. It has has no means of propulsion, and is moved by a combination of winds, currents, and tides. Strong winds may drive them into bays or onto beaches. Beautiful to see in their brilliant shades of blue but watch your step.
The stinging, venom-filled nematocysts in the tentacles of the Portuguese man o' war can paralyze small fish and other prey. Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.
July 8th, 2015
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