Sunday, January 3, 2016

Portuguese Man o' War invades Florida Beaches

Portuguese Man o' War
Large Portuguese Man o' War  wash up on Florida Beaches - a scallop shell for scale.
Portuguese man o' war invades Florida Beaches. Steady east winds have driven them onshore east central Florida since late December and into the New Year. The Atlantic Portuguese man o' war, also known as the Man-of-war, bluebottle, or floating terror, has venomous tentacles and can deliver a painful sting. If they are on the beaches one can assume they are in the water and hundreds of people have been reported stung! I took this photograph on December 31st. 

Strong winds may drive them into bays or onto beaches. Often the finding of a single Portuguese man o' war results in the finding of many others in the vicinity. They must be treated with caution, and the discovery of a man o' war washed up on a beach may lead to the closure of the whole beach.

The Atlantic Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis), also known as the Man-of-war, bluebottle, or floating terror, is a marine cnidarian of the family Physaliidae. Its venomous tentacles can deliver a painful sting. Despite its outward appearance, the Portuguese man o' war is not a common jellyfish but a siphonophore, which is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colony of specialized minute individuals called zooids. These zooids are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival. 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. In other languages it is simply known as the 'Portuguese war-ship' (Dutch: portugees oorlogsschip, Swedish: portugisisk örlogsman, Norwegian: portugisisk krigsskip, Finnish: portugalinsotalaiva), the 'Portuguese galley' (German: portugiesische Galeere, Hungarian: portugál gálya), the 'Portuguese caravel' (Portuguese: caravela portuguesa, Spanish: carabela portuguesa, Italian: caravella portoghese), or the 'Portuguese little boat' (Russian: португальский кораблик).

The Atlantic Portuguese man o' war lives at the surface of the ocean. The gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, remains at the surface, while the remainder is submerged. Since the Portuguese man o' war has no means of propulsion, it is moved by a combination of winds, currents, and tides. Although it is most commonly found in the open ocean in tropical and subtropical regions, it has been found as far north as the Bay of Fundy and the Hebrides.